British Man & Japanese Woman Take on Beijing Opera

Categories Flash Backs, International

Beijing Opera as seen through the lens of two non-Chinese who fell in love with China’s quintessential theatrical tradition.

How do you keep an ancient art alive? That’s the question that the Beijing Opera probably gets all the time. As a testament to their ability to keep bringing new flavours into classic Chinese opera, Beijing Opera’s show at the 2010 George Town Festival are fronted by Iranian-born, British-raised Ghaffar Pourazar and Japanese Morimura Chie.

Far from being token foreigners in the Chinese troupe, Ghaffar Pourazar is one of Beijing Opera’s directors and Morimura Chie is a founding member of the International Centre for Peking Opera. Pourazar cut his teeth undergoing 5 years of grueling training at the National Academy of Beijing Opera at the age of 32; decades older than many of the children that enrolled there.

Together with Morimura Chie, they demonstrated just how strong a pull Peking opera still has on the world’s imagination. With its intricate masks, instruments, costumes, and make-up, the opera is not only traditional pageantry at its best but also an all-in-one treat for those looking to experience China’s cultural heritage.  It demands of its performers singing, acting (in perfect Beijing dialect) and martial art skills, making it the quintessence of China’s performing arts forms.

Pourazar has gone on to receive the Great Wall Friendship Award, “Beijing’s highest award for foreign experts” in 2014. It is presented to those with “outstanding contributions in performing and promoting Beijing Opera internationally”. He has also adapted Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Beijing Opera, and directed the China National Troupe in performing it both in China and the UK.

The Beijing Opera performed “Monkey God” at Khoo Kongsi during George Town Festival 2010.

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Ching Yee Tang

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