CULTURE

Peking Opera’s next generation

China may be changing, but its culture still reflects a strong sense of history. The renowned Peking Opera, whose roots go back to the 13th century, presents life and its joys as seen through Chinese archetypal theater symbols. The distinguished Peking Opera, with its strict discipline and endless imagination, will perform two shows at the Herod Atticus Theater tomorrow and Saturday. The young men and women who comprise the opera begin their training when they are very young. By the time they reach adolescence, they are already professional. As the saying goes in China, one minute on stage requires 10 years of work. The students, about 200 of them, are accepted into the school after a series of tests which feel out whether the children can handle 12 ruthless years of training for the opera. The Herod Atticus Theater, like all other Western theaters that the Peking Opera visits, will host a multifaceted performance inspired by Chinese mythology and history. It will consist of acts that highlight makeup, costumes, movement, pantomime, acrobatics, the martial arts and singing. The performers want to stir the audience’s emotions through their art, which is steeped in the myths and motifs of the Far East. The emphasis is on roles, not on caricatures. Roles are not interpreted the same way as in Western theater. At the Peking Opera, the quick pace of transformation is far more important than analyzing characters. It is this parade of characters and heroes from an idealized patriotic past which makes the shows a huge feast of colors and illusions. Anything from generals to emperors and fairies and gods will parade on the stage. The sets are rather bare, so as to emphasize the richly adorned costumes, the makeup and the exotic hairdos. It is the kind of theater that breathes an element of magic into life. Inside look A select group of students will come to Athens, along with their teachers and the school’s musicians. As is the case with all their Western shows, the Athens performances will open with a hint of the training’s ritualistic character and its strict initiation nature. A classic repertoire selection will follow. Researchers of Chinese opera’s history have traced its roots to the 13th century and have detected influences of India’s Kathakali and Japan’s Kabuki. Today’s Peking Opera form was established at the end of the 18th century and has since remained a folk spectacle which entertains and excites the imagination. The Herod Atticus Theater is located off the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street, near the Acropolis metro station. Tickets can be purchased at the Hellenic Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.327.200), and at the theater box office.