Peking Opera, Goodall music numbers on stage Sunday at Grizzly Peak Winery – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News


A Briton, born to Azerbaijani Iranian Azeri parents, is now the unlikely champion of the art of Peking Opera. You can see him play Sunday May 30 at Grizzly Peak Winery.

“My Dream of Peking Opera and Jane Goodall’s Bestiary” will be presented from 3 pm to 5 pm by Ghaffar Pourazar in the Oak Grove Open Air Hall.

Pourazar will interpret the ancient craftsmanship and culture of Chinese opera through his signature role as the mythical Monkey King in a new musical format based on Dr. Goodall’s compassionate work with animals.

“It’s a new form of presentation for me as a one man show,” Pourazar said. “I use Peking Opera as a background to tell the story of the musical based on Goodall’s work.”

In 1993, Pourazar saw a performance of Peking opera in London and was so moved that he quit his job and enrolled in a Peking opera school, attracted by the beauty and the difficulty of mastering the art form.

In Peking Opera, the performers not only perform, they sing and dance while performing heartbreaking feats of acrobatics and sword fighting.

He spent five years in punitive training. Now it presents a hybrid, bilingual opera production based on the beloved legend of the King of the Apes, a playful monkey born from a stone, who learns supernatural skills and uses them to challenge the Emperor of Heaven.

Pourazar has learned that no matter how a foreigner performs, he will never watch the role unless he plays a character from Xinjiang.

“That’s why I specialize in the Monkey King,” he says. “With a painted face, the problem does not arise.”

He said the audience was the same all over the world.

“The applause and screams of ‘HAO!’ audiences in China don’t feel any different from applause on Broadway or in theaters anywhere else, ”he said. “There is a lot of joy in that as an artist.”

Pourazar met Goodall about 20 years ago, who was introduced to him by the director of the Jane Goodall Institute in Beijing at the time.

“We were successful straight away,” he said. “I did a little monkey routine for her and she was thrilled. Goodall is best known for her 60-year study of the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.

Over the years, he has performed for his lectures and meetings in China, and has partnered with his institute and UNICEF to publish green Beijing opera pieces. It was around this time that he thought of creating a musical based on his life.

It hasn’t been an easy trip and the musical itself has yet to be staged. Financial, technical and legal issues were all problematic. But a mutual friend of hers and Goodall’s encouraged Pourazar to continue his work. “He said, ‘Do it for yourself,’” Pourazar remembers.

It occurred to him that, in a way, his story was his story.

“The story of going to a foreign country, not knowing the people, their language, their food and their habits was both his and mine,” he said.

Trying to sneak into another world by learning and struggling, but surviving somehow, was something they had in common.

“That’s when I started working on my own story alongside Jane’s.”

After seeing Peking Opera for the first time in England many years ago, he followed the company to each subsequent performance – in Norwich, Cambridge, Manchester and back in London. It was in Cambridge that the director of the troop agreed to meet him.

“I was raised and educated in Cambridge and I knew it like the back of my hand,” he said.

He visited the actors at Trinity College where they were staying. Some of them recognized his friendly face. He showed them around the city, in the shops, and took them by boat on the River Cam.

“I did my crazy kung fu for them and they laughed. They took me to see their director and told him how much I loved Peking Opera. She spoke to me through a translator, ”he said.

A month later, he received a letter from the Peking Opera School, inviting him to study with them.

Before devoting his life to Peking Opera, Pourazar was professor of computer science and physical theater at the Brit School for Performing Arts & Technology in London, and worked on his doctorate. at the National Center for Computer Animation at the University of Bournemouth.

He was reluctant to tell his family about his decision to quit his job and study Peking Opera, fearing that he would not understand or approve.

“When I first went to Beijing, my family questioned me regularly,” he said. “I told them I was doing my doctorate. research with the movement and animation of Peking Opera. It was not far from the truth.

It was in 1997, when his relatives saw a CNN report on his Peking opera adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” that they put two and two together.

There was resistance from traditionalists in China when he first did “Midsummer”.

“But now they’re doing versions of Beijing opera by Brecht, Chekov and even Hollywood classics,” he said.

For three years, Pourazar has been teaching musical theater at the prestigious Chinese cultural institution, the Shanghai Theater Academy, conducting plays such as “Chicago” and teaching “Aida”, “Evita”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Sweeney Todd”. and other musicals.

He is currently seeking a teaching job in a theater and dance or Asian studies department at an American university, with the intention of eventually returning to China.

In his performance of Peking opera pieces at Grizzly Peak, he will also include some excerpts from his musical about Goodall. “These are culturally mixed East-West numbers,” Pourazar said.

He hopes that the audience, after seeing his performance, will take home an appreciation for something strange and foreign to their usual experiences.

“They will see something old, poetic, dynamic, moving, exciting, beautiful and cultural,” he said. “Something that I hope brings people together.”

Tickets cost $ 20 for adults and $ 10 for students and can be ordered by email at [email protected] For more information on other cellar shows, visit

Contact Ashland writer Jim Flint at [email protected]

Ghaffar Pourazar, seen here without makeup and as the Monkey King, will perform Peking Opera and other acts at Grizzly Peak Winery on Sunday, May 30. Courtesy photo.

Jane Goodall and her friend were an inspiration to Ghaffar Pourazar, who started working on a musical about his friend Goodall’s work with animals. He will perform numbers from the job Sunday, May 30 at Grizzly Peak Winery. Courtesy photo.

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