You’ve Seen Trump as a Reality TV Star. But What About in a Chinese Opera?


Donald Trump can already appear larger than life. However what would the world be like if there have been two of him?

From Apr. 12 to 14, audiences in Hong Kong will get an opportunity to seek out out. Within the metropolis’s historic Sunbeam Theater, the united statespresident—or relatively a unfastened portrayal of him—will step into the colourful world that’s Cantonese opera. He’ll be joined by China’s “great helmsman” Mao Zedong, North Korean chief Kim Jong-un, and sure, a fictional twin brother, in a manufacturing referred to as Trump on Present.

“[Barack] Obama has a half-brother in China,” says Li Kui-ming, the opera’s director and lyricist, referring to Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, an funding guide dwelling within the southern Chinese language metropolis of Shenzhen, who shares the identical father as the previous U.S. president. “So why not write a twin brother for Trump who also lives in China, speaks fluent Chinese, and is the exact opposite of Trump, into my opera?”

Li, 64, was a monetary journalist earlier than he turned a extremely profitable practitioner of feng shui—the Chinese language artwork of arranging buildings and furnishings to reinforce the stream of vitality. It may be a really profitable calling in Hong Kong, the place builders and companies can pay monumental charges for recommendation on the right way to design a condominium or lay out an workplace for optimum feng shui, which is assumed to confer luck and prosperity.

Alongside the best way, Li turned a sought-after lyricist, penning the libretti for greater than 30 Cantonese operas. Trump on Present is his newest. The three-hour lengthy manufacturing is about in opposition to the backdrop of geopolitics which have dominated the latest information cycle: the continued U.S.-China commerce warfare, and Washington’s relationship with Pyongyang.

The opera doesn’t bounce straight into modern-day affairs, nevertheless; one of many earlier acts sees Mao enjoying desk tennis with former president Richard Nixon, a nod to the so-called ping-pong diplomacy of the 1970s, when the U.S. formally acknowledged the Folks’s Republic of China to finish a long time of estrangement.

Regardless of these allusions, Li maintains the present isn’t political in nature.

“Politics can’t make people laugh,” he says, attired in a vivid black and gold ensemble that wouldn’t look misplaced on the operatic stage itself.

However what can, he provides, are Trump’s quirks and theatrics. The script makes enjoyable of the president’s penchant for quick meals and his eagerness to speak up his deal-making skills at any time when the chance might come up.

“There’s one special scene during which Trump gives business advice to Kim, telling him he has a brilliant idea that will make him rich and famous. He suggests Kim partners with one of his favorite brands, Coca-Cola, and propose infusing the soft drink with ginseng,” Li says. “Kim loves the idea. He goes crazy for it.”

Including to the enjoyable, lead actor Lung Koon-tin performs three of the primary characters—Trump, Trump’s twin brother, and Mao. However that casting determination wasn’t only for laughs. It’s meant to underscore what Li sees because the similarities between the president and the previous Chinese language chief, regardless of their positions at reverse ends of the political spectrum. Trump, Li factors out, is 72 years previous—the identical age as Mao when he began China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966. Li says Trump, in a means, desires to carry his personal shakeup to the U.S.

“He wants to change the country, just like Mao,” Li says.

Li liked Cantonese opera rising up, commonly attending performances and realizing most of the extra well-known songs by coronary heart. The UNESCO-recognized artwork kind has its origins within the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces of Southern China, and is thought for its incorporation of distinctive falsetto-style singing and martial arts routines. Performers don elaborate costumes and daring make-up characterised by contrasting colours and darkish strains, their each motion and expression dramatic.

When town’s famed Sunbeam Theater, which in its decades-long historical past had turn out to be synonymous with Cantonese opera in Hong Kong, was forced to close in 2012 as a result of a considerable hire enhance, Li stepped in. He signed a four-year lease and paid the month-to-month rental of $125,000 out of his personal pocket. His philanthropic gesture saved the 1000-seat cultural landmark the place most of the metropolis’s most distinguished opera performers honed their craft.

Li hopes that his newest manufacturing will appeal to a youthful, extra up-to-date crowd that in all probability wouldn’t be spending Friday night time at a standard opera home.

“We’ve successfully captured a new audience of 4,000,” he says of the 4 sellout reveals, which start in Hong Kong tonight. “Those 4,000 could be my new fans, and when I write more operas like this in future, that are not so traditional, my wish is that they will come again.”

Li’s dream doesn’t cease there. Far-fetched as it might be, he hopes Trump on Present will seize the eye of the U.S. president himself—and earn him an invite to the White Home to stage it.

“If Trump watches this, he will laugh from the beginning till the end,” Li says, imagining him and and his associates’ reactions as they witness the Oval Workplace, with its stripey partitions and beige carpeted flooring, taken over by Mao and Nixon lookalikes hotly debating U.S.-China relations over a recreation of ping pong.

And from the White Home, Li desires the Cantonese opera to make it to Broadway. In any case, Trump on Present has the political preoccupation of Hamilton, the edgy comedy of the Ebook of Mormon and, with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln making a cameo in a single scene, somewhat trace of Phantom.

“One day, Broadway, Cantonese opera, and Donald Trump,” Li says with confidence. “I know it will be a hit.”

Write to Hillary Leung at


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