Musical Theatre in China in the Twenty-first Century: Policy and Practice

The paper will cover both indigenous Chinese musical theatres forms and Western opera. There is a range of policy and ideological currents, but the Chinese Communist Party claims to be the inheritor of Confucianism and patriotism, both of which it strongly encourages.

The traditional musical theatre (xiqu 戏曲) is no longer in danger of dying out, but in the cities is becoming increasingly for tourists and an elite clientele. That gains importance in the light of the large-scale urbanization process that has characterized the most recent decades.

Western-style opera-houses have been built recently in cities all over China, with Western opera still popular among some of the urban elite.

The paper's main argument is: the regrowth of Confucian influence implies the revival of the Chinese traditional artistic culture; Western ideas of liberal democracy are under attack, but this does not extend to elite arts, such as opera.

This seminar is hosted by Chinese Studies, School of Humanities & Languages. For more information, please email Wah Guan Lim.


Professor Colin Mackerras (Officer in the Order of Australia, Fellow of the Academy of the Humanities of Australia) is a specialist in Chinese history, musical theatre and ethnic minorities, as well as Australia-China relations and Western images of China. He has written or edited over 40 books and authored nearly 200 scholarly papers about China, mostly in the fields listed. One of his important general books on theatre is The Rise of the Peking Opera, 1770–1870 (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972).

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