Adding some razzle and jazz to bring pingtan to a new generation | Forum

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flystly Nov 8 '17

When Gao Bowen first attended pingtan class at the Shanghai Traditional Opera School as a ninth grader, there were 10 students. Within a few years, however, he was the only one left. Gao, 47, has loved pingtan, a narrative musical tradition born in Suzhou and dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), since he was a kid and listened to it on radio almost every night. In 1984, he bought a ticket to watch the first pingtan performance in his life. He even pretended playing pipa, a four-stringed plucked instrument, with broom when he saw artists on TV.

Gao will return to the stage of Shanghai World Music Festival during the National Day holiday with more surprises. “Because we are performing outdoors, we will choose the music accordingly,” says Gao. “If it is as slow as usual, the audience may get bored. “But I don’t worry about foreigner audience or young people not having an ear for music of this kind. That’s the beauty of music. Do we need to understand Italian to enjoy opera? Not necessarily,” he explains. To attend an audition with the Shanghai Pingtan Troupe, Gao says he even stole money from his parents’ drawer for the entrance fee when he was 16. He was one of only 10 chosen from the 200 applicants.

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