From film to stage
Classic martial arts movie series to get Peking Opera adaptation
Published: Oct 19, 2014 08:18 PM Updated: Oct 19, 2014 09:54 PM

Maggie Cheung as Jin Xiangyu in 1992's New Dragon Gate Inn

Shi Yihong Photos: CFP


Be it TV, film or even books, the martial arts genre has long been one of the most popular genres in China. Starting in 2016, fans will also be able to enjoy this action orientated genre in a new medium, as on Saturday, during the ongoing Shanghai International Arts Festival, famed producer Lin Hai revealed that he would be adapting the renowned martial arts series Dragon Gate Inn into a Peking Opera.

"Although it is still just an idea now, Taiwan veteran director Li Xiaoping and my favorite Peking Opera actress Shi Yihong will ensure the production's quality," Lin said, promising that the public will have the chance to see the production at the 2016 Shanghai International Arts Festival.

One of the most well-known martial arts film series in China, the three films in the series that takes place in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) - Taiwan director Kin Hu's Dragon Gate Inn in 1967 and two from Hong Kong director Hark Tsui, 1992's New Dragon Gate Inn and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate in 2011 - have made the inn and its keeper Jin Xiangyu indelible parts of Chinese film history. 

"Actually, the idea for an adaptation originated with Shi Yihong, rising to the top of Peking Opera at a very young age, she is my favorite Peking Opera actress. She is perfect for the role of Xiangyu from the movies," Lin said, adding that he found Shi's interpretation of the role of Esmeralda in the Peking Opera version of Notre-Dame de Paris in 2010 "perfect."

The opera will be a the newest collaboration between Li and Shi after working on the Kunqu Opera classic The Peony Pavilion in 2012, during which time the two discovered a common interest in creating innovative and creative opera performances. 

The adaptation of a film to opera will mark a new start for the opera director.

"There have always been martial arts films. In recent years we have seen some crossovers with Peking Opera, such as using opera techniques in movies in order to enhance dramatic effects, or incorporating modern dance and Western classical music into Peking Opera," said Li, explaining why he decided to bring the series to the stage. 

While it's still too early to predict what form the opera will take in two years, Shi, who studied Western dance styles such as tango and paso doble for the role of Esmeralda, is optimistic about playing Xiangyu in such an innovative opera.

"A beautiful, brave, wild, passionate person who desires love, Xiangyu, who I know from Hark Tsui's movies, will be an interesting role to interpret into Peking Opera. Actually, Peking Opera shares a lot of similarities with movies when it comes to using fighting, music and dialogues to tell a story," the veteran actress said.