A Trump Bump for Hong Kong’s Last Commercial Cantonese Opera Theater

HONG KONG — Three tales of billboards alongside the Sunbeam Theater in Hong Kong had been full of photos of performers in closely painted faces and ornate headdresses.

But one, with a very lengthy purple tie and a cloud of shiny yellow hair, was not just like the others. You could have seen him earlier than — on Twitter, on tv, within the professional wrestling ring or the Oval Office.

It was President Trump, or a minimum of an actor enjoying him, and he had come to 1 medium that has to this point resisted his presence: Cantonese opera.

The operators of the Sunbeam Theater, Hong Kong’s final industrial Cantonese opera theater, produced a three-and-a-half-hour present about Mr. Trump and China, which had a quick, four-day run final month.

The opera, “Trump on Show,” tells a narrative of Mr. Trump’s long-lost twin, Chuan Pu, who was raised in China and works at a crematory. There he meets the undead corpse of Liu Shaoqi, the Chinese chief who died through the Cultural Revolution.

The opera features a Ping-Pong sport between Mao and Nixon, who later will get stumbling drunk at a state banquet; a go to to the White House by a scheming Kim Jong-un; the ghost of Lincoln; Mr. Trump’s disappearance on an extraterrestrial spacecraft; and a number of singings of “Edelweiss.”

“It’s crazy,” acknowledged the librettist, Li Kui-ming.

Mr. Li, 64, is a feng shui grasp who as soon as labored as a screenwriter and commenced writing operas a decade in the past. Seven years in the past he took over the lease of the Sunbeam Theater, when it was in peril of being became a mall after a earlier tenant couldn’t afford a lease enhance.

The theater was initially opened in 1972 by immigrants from mainland China.

Cantonese opera is without doubt one of the hottest variations of conventional Chinese opera, which mixes performing, acrobatics, dance and singing in works set within the distant previous carried out with the accompaniment of a stay orchestra.

In Hong Kong, followers and performers typically lament that Cantonese opera not instructions the audiences that it as soon as did. But there’s nonetheless vital public assist.

A $345 million Chinese opera heart opened in the West Kowloon Cultural District this year, with a 1,073-seat main theater and a smaller teahouse theater that serves dim sum during shows by up-and-coming performers.

Such government backing comes with a burden to steer clear of controversy, though.

“These venues are in fact very conservative,” said Chan Sau-yan, a music scholar and professor of cultural management in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“They wouldn’t allow anything like the Trump opera so the managers won’t get into trouble,” he said. “This could only happen in the Sunbeam Theater.”

The theater is a world away from the gleaming and airy new Chinese opera center. Refreshments are sold from vending machines and lines for the bathrooms snake down one of the aisles of the main theater, which also has a smaller space for screening movies.

Most of the shows presented take on the traditional realm of historic battles, lost loves and palace drama. But Mr. Li began to change things up, writing an opera about Mao Zedong that was first performed in 2016.

That work, which focused on Mao’s relationships with women, was criticized in Hong Kong for whitewashing the brutality of his rule. Similar complaints of glossing over Communist rule have dogged his Trump opera. Mr. Li said he left out some negative aspects out of his works because of a concern he would frighten the audience.

“I want them to be inside the story but not scared or afraid,” he said. “So I neglect some of the sensitive and controversial issues.”

The Trump opera is the second part of a series that began with the Mao work. Mr. Li said he saw obvious connections between the two men. Mr. Trump, he noted, is 72, the same age as Mao was at the start of the Cultural Revolution.

“This is the part where most old men will do some crazy things, at the age of 72,” he said. “Chairman Mao and Donald Trump, they are similar. They are arousing a revolution by neglecting the government and neglecting everybody and doing what they think.”

Cantonese operas focused on current events are rare, but there is some precedent. In the 1930s and ’40s, stories about modern political figures like Gandhi and Hitler emerged in an effort to appeal to new audiences.

“They had to innovate to stay alive,” Professor Chan said. “That was how Cantonese opera came to the revolution of using modern subject matters and especially political issues.”

Mr. Li got the Trump bump he hoped for, and the short opening run was sold out. Another run is planned for next year. Mr. Li hopes to one day bring the performance to the United States and dreams of a performance in the White House.

“One day I want to show the opera to the real Donald Trump and make him laugh,” he said.

Source link Nytimes.com

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