Kunqu is one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera and has greatly influenced the rest of Chinese theater. It combines drama, opera, ballet, poetry and music recital, as well as elements from earlier Chinese theater such as mime, farce, acrobatics, ballad recitals, and medleys. In Kunqu, spoken sections are broken up by traditional melody arias called qu-pai, with gestures coordinating with the music and percussion. A kunqu play takes several evenings to perform, such as SH Kunqu Opera’s 1986 production Story of the Bloody Hand, so a performance instead includes selected scenes from many different plays. Kunqu uses minimal props and scenery so that greater emphasis is put on the actors’ movements.

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Story of the Bloody Hand, Macbeth, 1986, SH Kunqu Opera, dir. Zuolin Huang