I, Hamlet: a kunqu opera
Friday 20 April 2018, 19.30 - 21.30
£12, Members/concessions £8
Zhang Jun, known as ‘the prince of kunqu’, fuses Shakespeare’s play with the traditions of Chinese kunqu opera. The performance is not only an interpretation of the story of Hamlet, but also explores the inner world of the play – the fierce fighting between the light and darkness, life and death, love and revenge. The 75-minute production is a one-man show where Zhang Jun plays four roles – Hamlet, Ophelia, the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the gravedigger – in the way of traditional Chinese opera characters known as Sheng (male roles), Dan (female roles), Jing (painted roles) and Chou (clowns).
Zhang Jun is one of the leading performing artists in China today. In 2011 he was designated as a UNESCO Artist for Peace in recognition of his long-term commitment to promoting the art of kunqu opera. Zhang specialises in the young-man role type. He has performed leading roles in such well-known operas as Peony Pavilion, Palace of Eternal Youth and The Jade Hairpin. Among his numerous acting awards is the Meihua (Plum Flower) Award, China’s most distinguished honour in the performing arts. A native of Shanghai, Zhang received his undergraduate degree in 2000 from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and his Master of Fine Arts in 2008 from Shanghai Theatre Academy. A student of kunqu since the age of 12, he has served as a professional kunqu actor in the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe for 18 years. Apart from his achievements as a performing artist, Zhang has devoted himself to introducing the kunqu operatic tradition to audiences, in particular to young people, throughout China and abroad. Since 1998, he has organised over 400 interactive performances that focus on young audiences and has lectured in high schools and universities in both China and the west. In his effort to promote the art of kunqu, he has worked with a number of performing artists in different fields, including the musician Tan Dun, the conductor Muhai Tang, the Japanese Kabuki actor Ichikawa Emiya, the British violinist Charlie Siem, the Chinese-American pop singer Leehom Wong and American jazz master Bobby McFerrin. Zhang has also played the leading role in Tan Dun’s opera Marco Polo, which was nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award. The Shanghai Zhang Jun Kunqu Art Center, a non-profit organisation founded by Zhang in 2009, aims to revive and promote kunqu opera through productions, research and education, and international cultural exchange programmes.