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Asian fusion: Chinese opera performs alongside Latin dance group - Brooklyn Paper

Asian fusion: Chinese opera performs alongside Latin dance group

Taking a bow: Members of Chinese Theatre Works, dressed in the rarely-seen traditional Kun opera style, will perform in Sunset Park on Sept. 18-19.
Stephen Kaplin

The sun has not yet set on Chinese opera.

A rarely-seen type of Chinese opera will spring up in Sunset Park on Sept. 18–19, with singers belting out ancient songs beside Latin dancers, a trumpeter, and a lecture as part of an eclectic show in the Brooklyn Emerging Artists in Theater Festival.

Chinese Theatre Works will present two scenes from the 16th-century Chinese opera “Peony Pavilion” in the traditional style of a Kun opera, meaning ornate costumes, pronounced body language, and little to no props or scenery. Seeing Kun opera performed is a rare cultural opportunity, says the company’s director.

“This is a classic. It’s not one that many people have heard of or seen outside of China,” said Kuang-Yu Wong. “But even for the Chinese, it is a rare art.”

Due to its age and very traditional nature, Kun opera is not often performed. But Wong says that is all the more reason to perform it now.

“This art form is very very deep,” said Wong. “It is important to introduce this art form to the community, so that it will continue.”

The full opera includes 55 acts and can run more than 20 hours, but the performers will only sing select portions, lasting less than half an hour. The opera will share the cavernous Manufacture New York space with three other performances — a salsa dance from Sunset Park’s own Brooklyn’s Finest Dance Company, a performance art installation about information technology called “The Proof is in the Processor,” and trumpet music from musician Paul Tafoya. During the evening’s event, titled “Ocaso,” audiences will be led through the fashion design building by a series of directional lights, and the different groups will perform together at the end of the evening.

The neighborhood has a large Asian and Latin population, and “Ocaso,” which means “sunset” in Spanish, aims to celebrate Sunset Park’s diversity by bringing together Chinese opera and Latin dance in the same space, said the festival’s artistic director.

“I’m very interested as a creator, in designing events which are diverse in its scope,” said Stephen Shelley. “There’s a lot of interest in diversity in Brooklyn, especially in Sunset Park.”

“Ocaso: A Performance Adventure in Manufacture New York” at Manufacture New York {850 Third Ave. between 30th and 32nd streets in Sunset Park, www.beatbrooklyn.com). Sept. 18–19 at 7:30 pm. $20. More Beat Festival events happen at various venues and times Sept. 10–19, see www.beatbrooklyn.com for more information.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.

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