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News Highlights

Legend of Hong Kong pirate brought to life in chamber opera for Shanghai Expo (with photos)

Anchors away! A brand new chamber opera based on the life and times of legendary pirate leader Zhang Baozai premiered this evening (August 20) for Expo 2010 Shanghai China (Shanghai Expo).

"The Legend of Zhang Baozai" also features some of Hong Kong's best-known traditions. It is presented by Musica Viva and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) Alumni Association with support from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

The opening night performance at the Drama Theatre of the Shanghai Grand Theatre attracted a full house. The second performance will take place at the same venue tomorrow evening.

"The Legend of Zhang Baozai", a HKSAR cultural programme for Shanghai Expo, was created under the artistic direction of Lo King-man, with music by Lo Hau-man, lyrics by Chris Shum and scenario script by Mandu Cheung.

"As one of the best-known figures in Hong Kong history, Zhang's story is connected to many existing historical sites and monuments such as the Cheung Po Tsai Cave and Ma Wan Temple,” Prof Lo King-man said.

"Most of the programmes staged for Expo present the uniqueness of different cities. The dramatic and uniquely local story of Zhang makes it highly suitable to represent Hong Kong at Expo.
"As well as focusing on Zhang's life, the opera also features interesting geographical references and portrays local customs through dance movements."

The Lantern Festival, Cantonese opera puppet show, Cheung Chau Bun Festival and Fire Dragon Dance during the mid-Autumn Festival are all represented in the opera.

Script writer Mandu Cheung was fascinated by Zhang's character and personality.

"Zhang Baozai was a powerful pirate leader, ruthless to Mandarin officials but generous to indigenous villagers," Cheung said.

"When he bought things from villagers, he would pay double. If his subordinates robbed the villagers, he would punish them severely."

According to Cheung, interpreting the legend of Zhang in a chamber opera was a creative collaboration.

"The singers, dancers, musicians, designers and production specialists in the 'Legend of Zhang Baozai' are all professionals and stars of Hong Kong's opera scene," he said.

Established by a group of performing arts enthusiasts, most members of Musica Viva are HKAPA graduates.

During the Expo period, 60 events and activities involving some 100 performances and four visual arts exhibitions are being staged by Hong Kong in Shanghai. They showcase the city's rich culture, modernity and connectivity to the Mainland and to the world.

Performances in September will include "The Liaisons" by Hong Kong Arts Festival and Fredric Mao Theatre Project from September 3 to 5; "Bank of Communications brings to you: Hong Kong Phil in Beethoven 9” by Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra on September 4; and "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" by Theatre du Pif on September 24 and 25. "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" is also the opening programme for Hong Kong Cultural Week of the 12th China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

For full details and ticketing information, please visit the Event Calendar section on Hong Kong's Expo website, www.hkexpo2010.gov.hk .