Chinese Opera ‘The Peony Pavilion’ comes to India

The Peony PavilionIndia will get a taste of Chinese art and culture when Kunqu Opera ‘The Peony Pavilion’ comes to India for the first time ever on 9th December 2014. Event is an initiative by Bravia Sadir, an NGO from Goa, headed by Swati Bhise. A cultural ambassador and an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer herself, Swati Bhise has been working to support art and culture education among youth in India and abroad since 28 years.

Kunku is one of the oldest and most refined styles of traditional Chinese theatre. It originated in the Wu culture and evolved from Kunshan melody to dominate Chinese theatre scene between 16th and 18th century. As a Chinese Musical, it is a synthesis of drama, opera, ballet, poetry recital, and musical recital. Back then, Kunqu was considered an opera play for the sophisticated, typically, emperors and his entourage. In 2001, Kunqu opera was recognized as one of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The Peony Pavilion is a renowned masterpiece of the Ming dynasty, written by Tang Xianzu for the Kunqu stage. The play first performed in 1598. Today, The Peony Pavilion is widely popular and has been traveling the world, giving cities like New York, Paris, Milan, Singapore, Berlin, Perth and Vienna a taste of traditional Chinese opera. In 1999 and 2012, The Peony Pavilion performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York.

Why India will like The Peony Pavilion

  • Kunqu is said to bear some resemblance to Bharatnatyam, as both use hand gestures to express a story.
  • The Peony Pavilion plot is said to bear resemblance to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (a play Indians dote on). Although, Romeo and Juliet and The Peony Pavilion were written around the same time.
  • In its traditional form, a Kunqu opera runs for over 20 hours. Of course, this has been reduced to a pacy version with a run time of 90 minutes.
  • Language barrier for Indian audiences will be bridged with live English transcriptions on LED screens on both sides of the stage.

Plot Summary

the peony pavilionThe Peony Pavilion is a love story between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei with a subplot tracing the fall of the Song dynasty. A sixteen year old girl falls asleep while taking a walk in the garden. In her dream she encounters a young scholar and a flaming romance ensues. After her dream is interrupted, she is lovesick and unable to recover from her fixation eventually leading to her death.

In the underworld, the judges decide that a marriage between the girl and scholar is pre-destined and she ought to return to the earthly world. What follows next is the formula of many Chinese comedies.

When and Where?

Kunqu Opera ‘The Peony Pavilion’ will play at NCPA, Mumbai on 9th December 2014 at 7pm.

The play travels to Siri Fort, Delhi on 12th December 2014 to give the Indian capital region a taste of Chinese opera.


I will be watching The Peony Pavilion at NCPA, Mumbai on 9th December 2014. Join me on my social media pages, TwitterFacebook and Instagram, where I will share more updates about the event and the experience of watching a Chinese opera unfold for the first time ever on Indian soil. In the mean time, you can read my experience of watching another classic – The Vagina Monolgues.


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Edwina D'souza

Read write watch, 2 left hands and feet, recluse, gazer and occasionally suffer from wanderlust syndrome!!

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