Cocktail of past and present

Updated: 2015-06-06 08:06

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya In Shanghai(China Daily)

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Cocktail of past and present

Elderly residents in a shikumenstyle alleyway in Shanghai. [Photo Provided To China Daily]

Residents reflect on elements of their city, where local traditions and globalization collide

It is a Sunday afternoon in May, and I am inside a Fudan University classroom, where more than a dozen people - mostly young students - have come to attend a voice-training workshop for the Kunqu Opera. The theater form, less common in modern Shanghai, has its roots in southern China on the banks of the Yangtze River.

This 14-year-old program is held weekly during semesters at Fudan and witnesses the participation of an average 20 to 30 students. The current teacher is Zhao Wei, an architect by profession, who appears to enjoy spending his weekends on making youngsters learn proper phonation for onstage activities.

In Shanghai, China's most globalized city, some residents are fighting to keep local traditions alive.

As the middle-aged Zhao explains a scene from the well-known Chinese operatic piece, The Peony Pavilion, he sings in a range of high-pitched voices. The students, with their scripts in hand, listen carefully. The late Kunqu Opera veteran and radio presenter, Liu Xuantu, had taught Zhao the art years ago.

The workshop is a way to raise awareness about Kunqu, according to Hu Jiaji, a doctoral candidate at the university. Hu makes a distinction between this protected heritage and the relatively more famous Peking Opera from North China, by saying Kunqu didn't come up as a commercial art, but rather as a hobby for its practitioners.

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