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Chinese Opera gets jazzed up

Updated: 2017-05-27 Print

A fusion of classical Chinese music, opera, and contemporary jazz was staged at the Mozart Music Hall of the Zhuhai Huafa & CPAA Grand Theatre on May 26, the first performance of its kind in the southern Guangdong city.

It was the first stop of a world tour sponsored by Zhuhai Golden Jazz Cultural Industry Management, supported by the Xiangzhou government.


Traditional Chinese opera adaptations fused with harmonic jazz are staged at Zhuhai Huafa & CPAA Grand Theatre on May 26.

The debut consisted of 12 Zhuhai traditional music and classical Chinese opera adaptations across the genres of Beijing Opera, Shaanxi's Qinqiang, and Zhejiang's Wuju. Jazz and folk musicians, and performers from home and abroad took part in the show set to the unique musical style.

A highlight was the adaptation of the Susan Under Police Escort (Susan Qijie), one of the most famous Beijing operas. Audiences familiar with the plot were captivated by the jazz-integrated melodies and fresh take on such a classic.


A famous Chinese opera artist voices lines accompanied by a Chinese-and-Western orchestra. 

Drew Zaremba, an American composer, conductor, and saxophonist, took part in the production. "The style comes from the professional interpretation of the operas as we extracted proper excerpts and rearranged the tunes that have strong rhythms with harmonic jazz."

Drew said that at first he was worried he might destroy the aesthetic nature of the operas. However, combined with the costumes, performances, and storyline, the interpretation proved a success.


A Qinqiang Opera selection with a new musical arrangement is performed in Zhuhai. [Photos courtesy WeChat account: zhxiangzhou]

"I really hope the innovation can contribute to the protection and inheriting of the 600-year-old culture as they are fading away," Drew said.

To better promote the art, performances will tour countries along the Belt and Road, each time integrated with local cultural elements.