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Comedic Peking Opera entertains in open air

Updated: 2013-08-09 01:42
By CAROLINE BERG ( China Daily)

Families, couples and friends gathered under a light canopy of green foliage in New York recently to watch a Chinese comedy. Although the star of the show, Alan Chow, has performed Romance of the Iron Bow for 20 years, he is still not tired of the story.

"He's got a true passion for Chinese opera," says Chen Rongrong, program director and principal singer for the Chinese American Arts Council.

Comedic Peking Opera entertains in open air

Peking Opera Romance of the Iron Bow joins this year's Lincoln Center Out of Doors summer program.Provided to China Daily

The Peking Opera Romance of the Iron Bow was part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors summer program, which annually showcases world-class music, dance and spoken word programs free for the public. This year's program runs from July 24 to Aug 11 and is sponsored by Bloomberg and Bank of America.

CAAC has partnered with the Lincoln Center to help immerse New York audiences in Chinese culture since 1975 when Chow founded the organization. He has been the board director and artistic director for CAAC ever since.

"Every year we bring Chinese cultural programs to Lincoln Center, including acrobatics, Chinese opera, martial arts or contemporary Chinese opera," Chen says. "Lincoln Center chose this opera, which is a comedy, because they thought it would be more accessible to the audience."

Chen estimated that annual attendance is split between 70 percent non-Chinese and 30 percent Chinese.

No subtitles were provided for the performance, which included five actors and 10 musicians. Nevertheless, Chen says the nature of the opera allows the audience to follow easily even without knowledge of the Chinese language.

The opera is set in China's northern Shanxi province where a mother, played by Chow, and daughter run a small teahouse in Taiyuan city. While traveling, the son of a commander meets the daughter, becomes smitten by her beauty and attempts to take her by force. A tale of women warriors, thwarted lovers and mistaken identities ensues.

"The storyline is funny," Chow says, fully costumed with a colorful headdress framing a face painted white with red lipstick and dramatic red eye shadow.

"I always enjoy performing this opera."

Chow's CAAC is the largest Chinese American arts presentation and service organization in Eastern US.

The organization aims to meet the cultural needs of the expanding Chinese community in New York, preserve the Chinese heritage within this community and introduce Chinese culture to the greater New York community.

CAAC presents 10-12 exhibitions annually of Asian-American visual artists in its own Gallery 456, among other venues such as Lincoln Center. Its indoor and outdoor performances feature modern and traditional Chinese theater, dance, vocal and instrumental concerts by high caliber Chinese-American artists.

Other programs supported by CAAC this year have included a photography exhibition about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life in China, a Chinese painting and calligraphy exhibition, an in-progress kinetic art exhibition by a Taiwan artist, a dual exhibition by two Taiwan painters, and a Chinese New Year celebration at Lincoln Center.

The organization is supported in part by the funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Cultural Affairs Department.

The cast of the Peking Opera Romance of the Iron Bow consisted of many young performers who recently moved to New York from China.

"I'm really interested in helping spread Chinese culture in New York," says Li Qingfeng, one of the actors, who has studied Chinese martial arts for 11 years.

Li, who is 23 and moved to New York from China more than a year ago, found his passion for his trade by watching Chinese martial arts films as a child.

Now, his goal is to break into the US film industry and incorporate his kung fu background into a movie career.

Comedic Peking Opera entertains in open air

Comedic Peking Opera entertains in open air

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