The Other New York City Opera

Chinese Traditions Survive a Transplant


Celebrate Chinese New Year With Authentic Chinese Opera, Locally Produced:

The Kunqu Society (St. George's Church, 135-32 38th Avenue, Flushing, 963-2481), founded in 1988 by a group of scholars, musicians, and students, offers lectures, demonstrations, master classes, and performances of Kunqu opera, developed during the Ming dynasty and the basis of other regional styles. Although president Anna Wu warns that the language of the operas is so refined and poetic "only intellectuals can fully appreciate it," the rest of us can still attend workshops given by the troupe's 23 resident artists, former professionals from all over China. Ongoing workshops meet on the first and third Saturday of each month from 1:30 to 6 p.m. and cost $20 for nonmembers, $10 for members. The group stages Peony Pavilion at the Kaye Playhouse, 68th Street at Park Avenue, February 19 and 20 at 7, 772-4448, $25-$65.

Happy Year of the Rabbit! Sam Yau, of the Cantonese opera club Yen Wor Group, prepares for a performance.
Happy Year of the Rabbit! Sam Yau, of the Cantonese opera club Yen Wor Group, prepares for a performance.

In Midtown, Chinese opera surfaces in the basement of the McGraw-Hill Building at Taipei Theater (1121 Avenue of the Americas, 373-1850). In 1993 the theater presented Hong Hong, the youngest member of a renowned Cantonese opera family. She offered sections of famous operas, rather presciently including a scene from The Impeachment of Yen Sung, in which a minister of the Ming dynasty faces charges of immorality. Paper Windmill Theatre, a troupe that produces children's shows combining puppetry with Peking opera, performs for the New Year celebration February 26 and 27 at 7:30 ($15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students).

The Chinese Dramatic & Benevolent Association (167-169 Canal Street, 226-6929 weekend evenings), the oldest active Cantonese opera club, began staging plays with contemporary themes in 1927, but exchanged political enlightenment for traditional drama in 1951 when touring performers from China revived interest in opera. The current incarnation of the group gives a free New Year's performance February 21 at 2 at the Chinese Community Center, 62 Mott Street.

Music From China (149 Canal Street, 962-5698) places greater emphasis on contemporary Chinese music than the other clubs, often premiering the work of young composers. The group, celebrating its 15th anni versary, holds its New Year's concert February 27 at the Flushing Library, 41-17 Main Street, Flushing, at 1:30 p.m. (free). Their Web page, www.musicfromchina.org, lists other concerts and events.

Kyew Ching Musical Association (149 Canal Street, 219-1088), started by a group of amateur musicians, has been meeting for more than 40 years. Members eat and play mah-jongg before, during, and after rehearsal. They celebrate the new year with a free greatest-hits recital at the Chinese Community Center, 62 Mott Street, March 13 at 2.

In its pamphlet, Fu Kai Cantonese Opera Training Center (91 Elizabeth Street, 226-5909) likens Cantonese opera to the giant panda of China: nearing extinction. Taking preventative measures, the center opened in 1994, offering classes to amateurs in singing, dancing and acting, and playing of traditional instruments. The staff most notably includes the famed opera performer Pin Chao Luo. Ongoing.

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