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More About: Death, Devotion, Ritual and Rock 'n' Roll
Sellars Premieres Recreation of Ancient Chinese Opera

Posted March 3, 1999

Photo: Peony Pavilion

In "Peony Pavilion," a Chinese opera written more than 400 years ago, a young woman enters a mystical, forbidden garden, falls into a deep sleep and dreams of a young man with whom she falls desperately in love.

After waking from her dream, Linniang cannot bear the harsh reality of the real world so she begins a hunger strike, certain that she will meet her true love in the afterlife.

This tragic love story has been recreated, with a 20th-century twist, by Peter Sellars, world-renowned director and recipient of a MacArthur genius award. Sellars reduced the running time from its original 22 hours to a more Western-friendly four hours and injected television sets and rock music. The production, which combines dance, opera, movement and music, will be presented March 5 to 7 at Zellerbach Hall.

The opera features Chinese actress Hua Wenyi, whom Sellars discovered working in a Los Angeles restaurant. Wenyi defected from China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident and was living anonymously on the West Coast. She was the first woman to appear in Peony Pavilion after the end of China's imperial era.

The March 5 and 6 shows begin at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee scheduled for March 7 at 3 p.m. For tickets, priced at $32 and $46, call 642-9988.

A number of discussions and lectures have been scheduled in conjunction with "Peony Pavilion." Sellars will give a free talk at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 5, in Zellerbach Hall for ticket holders to the opening performance. A two-day symposium, sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, begins Saturday, March 6, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Faculty Club's Seaborg Room, reconvening at 2 p.m. in 315 Wheeler. The symposium continues Sunday, March 7, at 9:30 a.m. in the Seaborg Room. For information, call 643-9670 or email


March 3 - 9, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 25)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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