A new Peking Opera production, New Dragon Inn, which has been adapted from a movie by the same name, will premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on April 30.
The 1992 movie starring Lin Ching-hsia, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Donnie Yen is recognized as one of the best martial arts movies that was produced during a revival of the genre in the 1980s and'90s.
The new production is a joint venture between HYM Culture Media Co, which was founded by renowned Peking Opera artist Shi Yihong, and the Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre.
The film depicts a swordsman named Zhou Huai'an and his fiancee Moyan who protect two orphaned children who are being persecuted by a power-hungry eunuch and his elite army.
At the Dragon Gate Inn, the heroes meet the innkeeper Jin Xiangyu, who later falls in love with Zhou and becomes involved with his cause.
The film, which centers around themes of love and righteousness, also has fast-paced action sequences and martial arts stunts, which should provide the right ingredients for a Peking Opera production, says Shi, who is especially fascinated by the role of Jin.
"Jin is different from any other women in the Peking Opera repertoire. Like a wild rose in the desert, she is fierce and fervent," Shi says.
"As an innkeeper, she is used to dealing with all kinds of people, taking advantage of them by any means. She is sharp and intuitive, unrestrained and independent, and often unpredictable."
Hu Xuehua, a veteran director of film and theater shows, says Peking Opera in China is akin to musical in the West, and he believes the opera's story and pursuit of aesthetics will resonate with audiences everywhere.
In contrast to the simple settings and choreography found in traditional Peking Opera, New Dragon Inn will feature innovative martial arts moves and stage and costume designs.
Lyu Xiang, deputy director of the company, says the martial arts team will perform new moves using specially designed props in the play.
"Audiences are no longer satisfied with just an excellent vocal performance," Shi says.
"Singing, performing, action and dialogue - this play will be the complete package."