China Presents First Beijing Opera Filmed in 3D

Liu Haifa
"Fairwell My Concubine"

“Farewell My Concubine” made its international premiere at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Friday night.

The traditional art of Beijing opera has gone high-tech.

A 3D filming of the classical Chinese play Farewell My Concubine had its international premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on May 30, the first time a Beijing opera production has been captured in 3D and the first time any mainland Chinese film has been made with both native 3D photography and Dolby Atmos surround sound technology.

Beijing opera originated in the late 18th century and is a highly stylized theatrical form that includes singing and acrobatic combat. In shooting Farewell My Concubine, the first of several Beijing operas that will be given the 3D treatment, director Junjie Teng adjusted the traditional staging and performance techniques in order to make the art form more accessible to younger and Western audiences. He also shortened the play's runtime by half an hour, to 100 minutes, and used different materials for Beijing opera's signature makeup and costumes in order to make sure they would hold up to the close-up scrutiny of the 3D camera.

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“This way, we can begin to let Western audiences understand Eastern art, understand how each culture has its own brilliance,” Teng told The Hollywood Reporter at the post-screening reception. “Then we can grow closer to one another and appreciate culture from all over the world as valuable."

The Hollywood screening was presented by the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and Television and supported by China’s consulate in Los Angeles to mark the 35th anniversary of China’s diplomatic relations with the United States.

Farewell My Concubine is set in ancient China circa 200 B.C., when warring states Western Chu and Han fought for control of the land. In the play, Western Chu leader Xiang Yu (portrayed in the 3D film by actor Shang Changrong) is on the verge of defeat and his beloved consort, Yu Ji (actress Shi Yihong), refuses to abandon him. The play was heavily referenced throughout the acclaimed 1993 Chen Kaige film of the same title.