|Legendary Kunqu Opera performer Zhang Jingxian (GT)
Since joining the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, Yu has directed several operas. From Ye Si (Night Thoughts) to Zhan Huakui, she combined her drama experience with her understanding of traditional values and aesthetics, and staged the works as they were traditionally performed without making changes simply for the sake of making changes.
"Innovation of Kunqu Opera should consider literature, music, performance and aesthetics," said Zhang. In Yu's new drama Red Woolen Blanket, she explores the tension between tradition and innovation, between Kunqu Opera and drama. The play features two famous theater protagonists: Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet and Liu Mengmei of the Ming era classic The Peony Pavilion. They pursue ways to break through the tradition but there are still some things that simply cannot change. "I studied Western drama and theories and works, both traditional and modern dramas. Sometimes I feel puzzled about my identity. I am still looking for a language to communicate between traditional Chinese operas and dramas," Yu said.
As an inheritor of this ancient art form, Zhang believes that instinct and emotions can always transcend time and space. "In the process of inheriting Kunqu Opera, we are preserving the tradition from disappearance," said Zhang. "Confronted with an ever-changing world, not only Kunqu Opera but also other traditional arts encounter great challenges. But what we can do is understand who we are, and follow the right way to push the art forward."
Having working on Kunqu Opera for years, Yu said, "My feelings about Kunqu have changed gradually. It has gone from a simple choice to a responsibility, from emotional love to intellectual appreciation."
During the long journey, she never stops thinking about the meaning of tradition.
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