There are many outstanding actors on the current Peking Opera scene who have contributed to the continuation of artistic excellence of many classics in the Peking Opera repertory. Yu Kuizhi, the famous actor of laosheng (old man) roles, will perform the title role in Wu Zixu, a full-length Peking Opera made famous by Yang Baosen, one of the ‘Four Greats’ in xusheng (bearded male) roles. Yu’s impassioned singing and acting will allow the present day audience a glimpse of the exemplary art of Yang. In Beating with a Gold Brick, which was a timeless audience favourite in the repertoire of Li Shaochun, it requires the lead actor an all-round performance in singing, delivery of lines, acting, dance, as well as acrobatics in martial arts. Yu will demonstrate his consummate skills and perform with bravura. He will partner with Li Shengsu, actress trained in dan roles of the Mei Lanfang school, in The Shoe Story and The Drunken Royal Concubine. In The Wild Boar Forest, which is taken from the famous novella The Water Margin, Yu’s partner on stage is Yang Chi, a famous performer in hualian (painted face) roles and a disciple of Yuan Shihai. The audience can witness the exceptional chemistry between these great actors on stage – definitely a programme not to be missed!
The Drunken Royal Concubine is a classic made famous by Mei Lanfang. The sung music uses the siping mode throughout, and the melody has a feminine and lingering touch that aptly expresses Lady Yang’s internal turmoil. Li Shengsu, who plays the title role, is known for her lilting voice and eloquently executed stylised movements. She is capable of performing such difficult movements as ‘picking up the wine cup with the lips’, ‘leaning to one side in slow motion until the body touches the ground’, ‘drunken steps’, ‘fan dance’ etc. with seeming ease and grace, all of which have been hailed as bravura movements of the Mei Lanfang school.
It is an anecdote describing a lovers’ quarrel between Lady Yang and Emperor Ming of the Tang Dynasty. She has a banquet set up in the Imperial Garden, then sends a message to the Emperor to come for a drinking party for two. But the Emperor has gone to the chamber of Lady Mei, another royal concubine. With her heart gnawed by jealousy and anger, Lady Yang drinks by herself until she falls into a stupor.
Drum： Zhao Qi
Jinghu： Zhang Shunxiang
Beating with a Gold Brick is a well-known work of the Peking Opera legend, Li Shaochun. In the excerpt, the actor needs to demonstrate his all-round skills of singing, delivery, acting, as well as the stock movements of both military and civil roles. The vocals are lilting, and the stunt actions can be highly demanding. This is therefore an exemplary piece in traditional Peking Opera. Yu Kuizhi, dubbed ‘The Number One Actor in Laosheng Roles in China’, won the 7th Plum Blossom Award for China Theatre with his performance of the piece.
The story takes place during the reign of Emperor Guangwu of Eastern Han Dynasty. Yao Gang, the son of Yao Qi, kills the father of Lady Guo. The Emperor orders to have him banished, much to the chagrin of Lady Guo. To take revenge, Lady Guo makes the Emperor drunk, and gives a false edict to have Yao Qi and his family executed. The other faithful ministers who try to speak on Yao’s behalf are also cruelly killed. Ma Wu barges into the palace with a gold brick in a bid to advise the Emperor not to have the faithful wronged. Although the Emperor tries to revert the edict, the pardon comes too late. Yao is already beheaded. Ma rushes back to the imperial court and in a tirade, admonishes the Emperor for his wrong deed before crushing his own head with the gold bullion. When the Emperor wakes from his drunken stupor, he is struck by remorse. He has Lady Guo executed, then goes to the Imperial Temple to pay his respects to the wronged loyal souls. But his deep regret gives him such pain that he stumbles, collapses and dies.
Cast： Yu Kuizhi, Yang Chi, Yang Yanyi
Made famous by Yang Baosen, one of the ‘Four Great Actors in Bearded Male Roles’ in Peking Opera, this opera is inspired by the historical accounts of Wu Zixu, a famous strategist, military general and iconic figure of loyalty described in the ancient chronicles Zuo Zhuan and Shi Ji, and in the Qing novel, Romance of the Eastern Zhou States. It is famous for being a difficult piece, demanding the actors to have both good singing and acting skills.
Wu Zixu wants to flee to the State of Wu, but as a wanted man, he is afraid that he cannot go through the tight border control at Zhao Gate. He meets a hermit, Sir Donggao, who puts him up in his own residence for seven days. Under the enormous stress and anguish, Wu’s hair turns completely white, and his facial features also age tremendously. So Donggao asks a friend, Huangpu Nei, to assume Wu’s identity and crash the border control. As expected, Huangpu is taken custody while Wu manages to get through. The next obstacle is the river, which Wu has to cross. He finds an old fisherman who is willing to ferry him across. As a token of appreciation, Wu gives him his sword, and asks him not to disclose his route of escape. The fisherman throws himself into the river to bring the secret with him forever. Wu goes ashore, but is too hungry to go on. So when he sees a washerwoman, he begs her for food. When she has given him food, Wu asks her not to disclose his whereabouts. She also throws herself into the river to shut her own mouth forever. Wu arrives at the State of Wu. On hearing that Zhuan Zhu is a filial son and upright man, he befriends him, and the two become sworn brothers. Wu tries to make ends meet by becoming a street entertainer playing the flute. He happens to meet Prince Jiguang, who is the son and heir apparent to the Wu throne. But when the King dies, Wang Liao usurps the throne. Jiguang plots to reinstate himself, and on learning that Wu Zixu is a good strategist and general, he takes Wu under his wing. Wu recommends Zhuan Zhu to Jiguang, who sends Zhuan to assassinate Wang Liao with a dagger hidden in the belly of a fish.
Cast: Yu Kuizhi, Yang Yanyi, Zheng Yan, Li Yangming, Lu Yaoyao
Drum： Su Guangzhong, Sun Yu
Jinghu：Ye Guang, Hu Qiming
The Shoe Story is an intellectually and artistically distinguished work by Maestro Mei Lanfang. First written by Qi Rushan based on the novella, Changing Shoes, by Dong Yinghan of the Ming Dynasty, it was later revised by Xu Jizhuan and renamed to the present title. The excerpt The Escape at Night describes Han Yuniang stealing away from the nunnery in the dark of the night. She sings as she walks briskly, with a lightness of step and airy movements that are beautiful to watch. Then in The Outpouring at Night, Yuniang tells her life story in an emotionally charged sung passage, which goes straight to the heart of the audience.
The story takes place during the war-stricken years of the Song Dynasty. The Tartar force, Jin, is making aggressions into Song land. Cheng Pengju, a scholar, and Han Yuniang, a young woman, are taken captive as slaves by General Zhang of the Jin army who forces them to marry. Yuniang encourages Cheng to escape back to Song land, but General Zhang learns of their plan. In a rage, he sells her to a Song merchant, Qu Shixi. When the two part, Cheng drops a shoe in his hurried escape. Yuniang picks it up and hides it as a keepsake. Cheng finds his way back to Song land and becomes a soldier under General Zong Ze. He presents Zong with a map, which aids in defeating the Jin invaders. Cheng is rewarded with an appointment as the Prefect of Xiangyang. But he misses Yuniang, so he sends Zhao Xun to bring the other shoe and go and find her. Now Qu Shixi, the merchant who has bought Yuniang, is sympathetic of her plight, and transfers her to a nunnery. But the Abbess intends to sell her to a local despot, Hu Wei. Yuniang manages to escape. She is taken home by an old woman by the name of Li. There, she works for a living as a weaver. When Zhao Xu comes along with Cheng’s shoe, she is reminded of all the sad things that have happened to her and falls ill. Cheng learns of this and hurries to find her, only to see her for the last time before she dies.
Cast：Li Shengsu , Zhang Wei, Zheng Yan, Chen Guosen, Hu Bin
In The Wild Boar Forest, Yu Kuizhi, a consummate exponent of the art of the Peking Opera legend, Li Shaochun, will portray the protagonist Lin Chong in an engaging light. Scenes like Dispatch at the Roadside Pavilion and Vengeance in the Snow Storm put him under full limelight to demonstrate his amazing vocal skills and stylised movements. Monk Lu Zhishen will be played by Yang Chi, whose interpretation through jiazi hualian (painted face role performed with stilted stylised movements), a strident voice and a firm grasp of the performing skills conjure up a convincing character that is righteous, open-hearted, generous and eager to help those in dire straits. Lin Chong’s wife will be played by Li Shengsu. Her interpretation of a woman with a hidden strength of character in face of devastating circumstances goes straight to the heart of the audience, especially in the sad scene of Farewell at the Roadside Pavilion.
In late Northern Song Dynasty, Lin Chong is the Arms Instructor of the eight hundred thousand strong Squadron of Imperial Guards. Young Master Gao, son of Marshal Gao Qiu, Commander of the Imperial Guards, is enamoured of Lin Chong’s wife, so he sets a trap to get rid of Lin. He invites Lin to visit the Marshal’s Residence on the pretext that Marshal Gao wants to see a broadsword. Unwittingly Lin is led to the White Tiger Inner Sanctum, the rear hall which is out of bounds to anybody carrying a weapon. So Lin is accused of trying to assassinate the Marshal and is sentenced to banishment. On the way to Cangzhou, the guards are bribed to kill Lin. Monk Lu Zhishen happens to be passing by and saves him. On arriving in Cangzhou, Lin is charged with guarding the haystacks for the army horses. Gao Qiu sends men to burn it down, with the intention of killing Lin in the fire. Lin uncovers their treacherous scheme and kills the arsonists before going to join the rebels on Liangshan with Monk Lu.
Cast: Yu Kuizhi, Yang Chi, Li Shengsu, Zheng Yan
Drum： Su Guangzhong
Jinghu： Zhang Shunxiang