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Going wild for 'The Wilderness'

Updated: 2024-05-06 06:57 ( China Daily )
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China Conservatory of Music students He Haoyuan (left) and Yang Qi perform a song from the opera at the school during the launch. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"The Wilderness has a large fan base. It has been staged for about four decades and is a milestone of China's opera scene," says Li, who's also a veteran conductor, adding that the China Conservatory of Music has staged the show many times as a classic piece of its opera education.

Li watched the premiere in Beijing as a middle school student in 1987.

"The opera impressed me, from its music to its stage sets," says Li, who later began to study conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1989.

"In 1992, Chen let me study acting at the opera department of the China Conservatory of Music, which allowed me to learn The Wilderness. It was the first time I got to know the opera as a music student. I also participated in the rehearsals and played a role when the conservatory's opera department staged The Wilderness as its graduation opera in 2002."

In 2007, Li also worked with the late composer Jin when the opera marked the 20th anniversary of its debut and was staged again in Beijing.

" (Jin) helped me to fully understand the music, and I challenged myself to conduct the whole opera without the score during the performance. That was an unforgettable experience," adds Li.

Chen, who has participated in the staging of the opera many times, says Wan Fang's script is true to her father's original play, which highlights the characters' desperate inner struggle and the intense conflicts.

"Cao Yu has been called China's foremost modern playwright. His works, such as The Wilderness, feature memorable characters with distinctive personalities. They reflect the writer's keen and vivid observations of society," says Chen.

Stage designer Wang Xingang, who was on the creative team of the 1987 premiere of The Wilderness, returns to again work as stage designer in this latest adaptation of the Chinese opera. Using such elements as stones and frames, Wang creates an oppressive atmosphere, to convey the characters' fates and struggles.

China Conservatory of Music students and teachers will stage the upcoming performances.

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