The mother of Chinese opera is coming to town - and she's set to make history and break records HONG KONG AUDIENCES will be witnessing a Chinese operatic event of truly epic proportions when the Jiangsu Kun Opera The Palace of Eternal Youth is staged in March. Indeed, the production will be a historic event for the city, which is seeing the opera for the first time. So big is the lavish spectacle that it is being spread over three consecutive nights of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Presented by the Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of Jiangsu province, the production features costumes and sets designed by Hong Kong designer Tim Yip, who won an Oscar for his work on the award-winning mainland movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A collaboration between Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong artists, the production was recently presented in Suzhou, hometown of Kun opera, at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee of Unesco. Kunju, or Kun opera, is considered the 'Mother of Chinese Opera'. It originated in southern China in the 1360s during the Yuan dynasty and gained popularity among the intellectual elite in the middle of the Ming dynasty. There has been a resurgence of interest in Kun opera in recent years. The unique opera form is enriched by a combination of five southern Chinese singing styles and seven styles of northern opera. It has its own system of acting and music that incorporates traditional Chinese instruments. The celebrated classic opera will be performed with Chinese surtitles and English scene synopses. The Palace of Eternal Youth, written by Hong Sheng, chronicles the love story of Tang Emperor Xuan Zong and his mistress, Yang Yuhuan. The emperor is smitten by Lady Yang's beauty, neglects his duties and drives the state into chaos, resulting in a military revolt. Blamed for the empire's decline, Lady Yang is forced to commit suicide. The love story continues when the emperor and his mistress are reunited in heaven. The story has been adapted by Gu Duhuang, a kunju scholar based in Suzhou, and he is also directing the production - with scrupulous attention to tradition and detail. He even travelled to the city of Wenzhou to consult with a 90-year-old member of another Kunju troupe. Gu has condensed the opera's original 50 acts into 27, and these will be staged over three nights (March 15 to 17) at the Lyric Theatre of the Academy for Performing Arts.