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Monkey

Biography

The musically restless Damon Albarn -- best known to the world as Blur's lead singer and co-creator of the Gorillaz -- has embarked on multiple peregrinations over the past few years, the latest of which have taken him to China. For Monkey, he's collaborated with Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-Zheng to stage the ancient tale of Monkey, a character who gets himself into trouble with the Buddha and has to go to India and retrieve some ancient texts to redeem himself. Working with designer Jamie Hewlett (who did the illustrations for the Gorillaz), Chen and Albarn have staged an opera that calls on C-Pop and rock, classical music and Chinese opera equally. It also upends opera's stodgy staging -- the show boasts a cast of 60, most of whom are circus performers, contortionists and kung fu masters. Beautifully designed, it's elicited both rave reviews and a certain discomfort from opera purists.

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