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Shy star returns

Updated: 2016-05-16 08:22:32

( China Daily )

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Zhang Huoding is known for her performances in The Legend of the White Snake and The Jewelry Pouch.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Acclaimed artist Zhang Huoding will bring the curtains down on this year's Meet in Beijing arts festival with a Peking Opera classic. Chen Nan reports.

As Zhang Huoding walks to the stage, cameras follow her and the crowds get excited. The 45-year-old is one of a few Peking Opera performers who can get the attention usually reserved for a pop star.

Her shows are sold out and fans, especially young people, love her performances of the traditional art form, which is facing a decline today.

On May 24, Zhang will present a Peking Opera classic, The Legend of the White Snake, at Chang'an Grand Theater in Beijing, to mark the end of the monthlong Meet in Beijing arts festival for the year, one of the capital's biggest cultural events.

The Legend of the White Snake is about a love affair between a female snake named Bai Suzhen, who turns into a beautiful woman, and a man called Xu Xian. They meet, fall in love and get married. But a monk, who considers Bai evil and jails her in a tower, gets in the way of the couple's happy life.

"I like the role of Bai Suzhen very much. The woman is strong, crazy for love and brave," says Zhang, who was born in Baicheng city in Northeast China's Jilin province.

She began her studies in Peking Opera in Tianjin in 1986. Upon graduation three years later, she focused on the Cheng school-one of the four major Peking Opera styles that emerged in the early 20th century-under accomplished performer Zhao Rongchen (1916-96).

The Cheng school, founded by famed Peking Opera master Cheng Yanqiu (1904-58), is known for its sorrowful and graceful singing, especially when portraying vulnerable and constrained female roles.

In 2000, Zhang performed the role of Bai for the first time when she was working with the China National Peking Opera Company.

To play the role, she adapted the classic piece to the Cheng style. This performance brought her great acclaim and made her a representative figure of the school.

Then, in 2007, she was the first Peking Opera performer to hold a solo concert at the Great Hall of the People.

A highlight of her upcoming show is that Zhang will perform with four actors from different generations of Peking Opera performers, who play the role of Xu Xian. The actors include Ye Shaolan, Song Xiaochuan, Zhao Rao and Zhang Bing.

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