A British classic with a Chinese twist : Kunqu Opera by ZHANG Jun

On Wednesday July 18, the representation of the Kunqu Opera play “I, Hamlet” was staged at the China Cultural Center in Brussels in front of 150 distinguished guests. This play’s particularity lies in the fact that it is a western play adapted to the character of Chinese Kunqu Opera, the oldest type of Chinese Opera, which was listed as Immaterial and Intangible patrimony of UNESCO in 2001.

This event, which was conjointly organized by the “Jing’an district People’s government, Shangai Municipality” and the committee of the “China Arts Festival in the Eu”, supported by both the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU and the China Cultural Center in Brussels. The Center was honoured to welcome Minister Counsellor Mr. LI Jianmin, the Vice Mayor of Jing’an district, Mrs. BAO Yingjing, as well as the President of the China Arts Festival in the EU, Mrs. Julie Patterson.

During their honorary speeches, the different officials emphasized the importance of such events, because they strengthen the tie between the EU and China and promote both the Chinese and European culture.

As articulated by Mr. LI Jianmin, Minister Counsellor of the Mission of China to the EU: “The successful union of British classics and Chinese treasures into a colourful, original and moving blend is the proof that the dialogue between the East and the West was fated to happen. Regardless of how different our two cultures are, we are complementary people and we have so much to learn from each other.” This feeling that was shared by Mrs. Bao, Vice Mayor of Jing’an district in Shanghai, who was delighted to be in Brussels to introduce the “Modern Valley Jing’an Festival” to the European audience. She understands that culture has the means to greatly improve a city’s development: “The Jing’an government believes that urban development is not only about the development of industrial economy, but also about the advancement of the culture, education, and sports because they have a great meaning and in citizens’ lives”.

Lastly, Mrs. Patterson, President of the China Arts Festival delivered the final speech of the ceremony and stressed the importance of bringing families and children to such events, in order to introduce the younger generations to each other’s cultures: “I believe that inviting new generations to cultural and artistic events also contributes to the protection of intangible cultural heritage.”

Subsequently, artist Mr. ZHANG Jun took to the stage to perform a selection of 3 acts of his play “I, Hamlet”. The actor, who was alone on stage, played all the different roles himself by simply changing his voice and posture accordingly, demonstrating his impressive skills, leaving the audience in awe.

Each one of his acts was separated by a “masterclass” given by the artist, where he took the time to explain his perspective on the Kunqu opera, as well as how he got the idea of creating this Chinese adaptation of a British literary Masterpiece.

After the final act, Mr. ZHANG Jin sang a song of his choosing which narrated and expressed the best subtilities of the Kunqu opera. He then concluded by saying: “Even if there are a lot of new and modern types of opera nowadays, I sincerely believe that the Kunqu is still very relevant in today’s Chinese culture”.

The delighted guests then went on to enjoy an exquisite buffet while discovering a photo exhibition depicting the many aspects of Jing’an district: its evolution through the years, its beautiful landscapes, as well as photos of the former edition of the “Jing’an Modern Drama valley”, giving the public the opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the festival.