Plans to perform the classic Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion in New York have been scrapped after talks to resolve a dispute on objections to the production in Shanghai broke down. The decision to cancel came after the Shanghai Kunju Opera Company told the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts that costumes, props and musical instruments for the opera would not be allowed to leave Shanghai yesterday - the deadline for them to arrive in time for the scheduled July 7 New York opening. The Lincoln Centre Festival director Nigel Redden left Shanghai last night after spending a week trying to resolve the row. Government officials on both sides distanced themselves from the dispute, describing it as one for the two arts bodies to resolve. The Lincoln Centre commissioned the kunju opera more than a year ago as the centrepiece of this year's festival. It is due to be shown in Hong Kong next year. But the Shanghai Bureau of Culture objected to parts of the opera for being 'feudal, superstitious and pornographic', and insisted on another rehearsal of the 20-hour performance to allow it to make appropriate revisions. 'By making this demand, the bureau of culture has constructively cancelled the engagement of The Peony Pavilion as part of the Lincoln Centre Festival 98,' a centre spokesman said. The centre expressed 'grave concern' about taking part in an exercise 'which attacks the artistic integrity of the work'. However, the Shanghai company said it was upset that the centre had passed the blame for the cancellation and expressed surprise and regret at the centre's accusations. The heart of the dispute lies in director Chen Shizheng's interpretation of an erotic love story written 400 years ago by Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu. The culture bureau objected to what it deemed was Mr Chen's violation of kunju rules and injection of superstition - such as the burning of paper money and effigies in a funeral scene - and a love-making scene. Mr Chen insisted: 'It is a wonderful production. It sticks to the original script. I'm proud of it.' Shanghai mayor Xu Kuangdi said he had not seen the orginal rehearsal but was aware of the complaints. 'I am cautious if its performance overseas leaves an impression the Chinese people have changed a traditional art into a popular thing,' said Mr Xu. 'Kunju is the highest form of opera art in China. Mr Chen has turned it into a comedy and the Chinese people cannot accept it.'