Photo courtesy of Wuhan Han Opera Company
The Wuhan (Hubei Province) Opera Troupe, a Chinese Han Opera, will take over the stage at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) this month. The professional theater troupe of 26 people will arrive in New Jersey before Feb. 16 for their first performance in the United States from Wuhan, China.
The College of Arts & Sciences hosts an exchange program with Wuhan University. Each year, the college sends a professor from Seton Hall there and one of their professors comes to Seton Hall.
Dr. David Bénéteau, professor of Italian studies, was one of the professors who traveled to Wuhan. While teaching at the University, Bénéteau saw the opera’s performance of “The Taming of the Shrew.”
“It’s similar to Italian comedy and the type called Commedia dell'arte. A very physical comedy,” said Bénéteau. “I was surprised how it reminded me of the contemporary European art. Music, singing, acrobatics, there is traditional dances involved. It’s in Chinese with supertitles.”
The Opera is a representation of several art forms brought to the stage for a night full of artistry and beauty. Professor Xiong Jieping is a visiting scholar this year from China. He is also the librettist behind the Opera.
“Chinese Opera is more or less contemporary with Shakespeare. This Opera is about 400 years old,” said Bénéteau. “Kind of an interesting coincidence. It was Xiong’s idea to make a Chinese Opera based upon a Shakespeare play.”
The Opera will be performing renditions of classic Shakespearian plays. The first is the tragedy “King Lear.” The Opera is directed by Wang Lixin and composed by Qi Maosheng. The second play being performed is the comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew.” It is also composed by Qi and directed by Sun Wei.
Both shows will be performed in Chinese with English subtitles.
The Wuhan Han Opera Company was established in 1962. In 2013 they were honored as a key theater company by the Ministry of Culture of China, a cultural heritage representing Hubei Province, according to the SOPAC website.
“It’s a whole art. It’s not just a play. It’s concert. Its an acrobatic display. It’s a highly stylized. They do it exactly the same way each time. There is a traditional dance they do to give the illusion of people on horses,” said Bénéteau. “‘Taming of the Shrew’ is also child friendly. ‘King Lear’ is more for mature audiences. It explores the darkness of the human soul and madness of human age. It’s fantastic for Seton Hall to be able to host a theatrical group like this in their American premiere.”
“King Lear” will be presented Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. “The Taming of the Shrew” is scheduled for Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. SHU students can attend both performances free of charge with their SHU I.D. Open admission is $25.
Stephanie Gomulka can be reached at email@example.com.