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Peking Opera "Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci" is staged in STA Experimental Theatre

3 November 2019

On the evening of 1 November 2019, the newly adapted historical Peking Opera Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci created and rehearsed by the teachers and students of Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) was performed in the STA Experimental Theatre. Professor Sun Huizhu is the playwright and director of this play, while Professor Yi Tianfu is the stage designer, Tong Qiang is the artistic director, Wang Zhuo of the STA College of Chinese Opera is the assistant director and technical director. The play is starred by Yang Miao of the Chinese Opera School affiliated to STA and Yu Xiang of the STA College of Chinese Opera, and co-starred by Zhao Qun, Tong Hang and He Chang etc, with the students of above-mentioned school and college performing on the same stage.

Professor Sun Huizhu introduced that on the basis of historical materials, the play described the exchanges, differences and cooperation between Xu Guangqi, a minister of the Ming Dynasty, and Italian priest Matteo Ricci. This play shows the Chinese people's learning from and exchange with the western culture with dignity, and equally and positively reflects the cross-cultural relationship between the East and the West. On the stage with one table and two chairs, the freehand-style background and lighting of the stage convey the spirit of the characters as well as the implied philosophical message, not only keeping and carrying forward the traditional aesthetic characteristics of Peking Opera as a national essence, but also presenting new highlights frequently.

The Shanghai Library brought two extremely precious books to the performance venue. One was the Latin version of “Euclid Geometric Principles” published in Cologne, Germany in 1591, which Matteo Ricci had brought to China and translated into “Elements of Geometry” together with Xu Guangqi; the other was “The Journals of Matteo Ricci” published in Cologne, Germany in 1617 after Matteo Ricci's death. These two books are precious historical materials and evidences of this particular episode of the historical friendship between China and Italy.

Peking Opera Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci is the product of years of cooperation between Shanghai Theatre Academy and Piccolo Theatre Milan, the largest theatre in Italy. It has been to Italy twice to perform in a simplified version. Yesterday, Mr Farid Mezaber of the Piccolo Theatre came especially to Shanghai to watch the performance and gave a high appraisal. Since the establishment of the China-Italy Cultural Cooperation Mechanism in 2017, this play has been mentioned for a number of times at two meetings with the attention of the two heads of state. Next autumn, Peking Opera Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci will go to Milan again in its full version, and will then perform in the Italian Pavilion in the Dubai World Expo.