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Studio Theatre Productions- Jiangsu Kunqu Opera Theatre

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Fri - Sun

The Peach Blossom Fan

Tears and blood on the peach blossom fan.

The Peach Blossom Fan is the most important work of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) author Kong Shangren (1648-1718). Twice he rewrote the best part of the play. It is regarded a great work that reflects the reality of its time. In Kong’s own words, the characters’ varying ethical stances are expressed in their different approaches to love.

In the last years of Ming Dynasty (1368-1643) conflicts between political cliques plagued court affairs. The powerful court eunuchs were offended by the scholar Hou Fangyu who would not align himself with them. They put the blame on him when the troupes stationed in the north marched towards the royal court to demand supplies. Hou was forced into fleeing and thus separation with Li Xiangjun, the love of his life and a famous courtesan of Nanjing. Soon the Manchu army took Beijing and the Ming court moved to the south. Hou joined General Shi Kefa’s last line of resistance. However, the new Ming emperor favoured the eunuchs and Hou found himself a total outcast. In his absence the eunuchs imposed a marriage on Li Xiangjun. To show her will to resist them, Li cut her own face to ruin her looks at the banquet given by the eunuchs. Her blood spilt on her fan as she bravely castigated them for their corrupt politics. Upon hearing this news Hou hurried back to Nanjing only to find that Li had been taken to serve in court. Hou was then arrested and put in jail. Meanwhile, the Manchu army crossed the Yangtze River. General Shi Kefa died. The entire Ming court collapsed and Hou escaped from jail, but was so disillusioned with the political reality that he decided to withdraw from worldly matters and live in the mountains. Yet, Li Xiangjun had not given him up. She travelled around to look for him. She still remembered him as an ambitious man who would fight for his country till the end. Never would she imagine him taking to the mountains and giving up. Their different approaches to life made it impossible for them to find one another, and for their love.

Cast: Shi Xiaomei (Guest), Gong Yinlei, Zhao Jian (Guest), Xu Yunxiu, Gu Jun, Li Hongliang, Zhao Yutao, Sun Jing, Yang Yang


Sat - Sun

Excerpts from The Dream of the Red Mansion

All the sound and fury in a single red mansion.

Daiyu Taking Leave of Her Father

This piece is played by laosheng (old male) and dan (female) roles. The laosheng that portrays the father also takes sequences of movement and expression often associated with guansheng (official male) roles. The drama of this piece is structured around the development of the music New Ode to the River, which incorporates northern and southern melodies into the same suite. The general atmosphere of the piece is one of sadness. The father and daughter would not meet again. This marked the beginning of Daiyu’s life of loneliness.

When Lin Daiyu’s mother died of illness, her maternal grandmother, the dowager of the grand Red Mansion, decided to take care of her. As she embarked on the journey north she bid farewell to her father. Readers and audience will later find out this was the last time they saw each other.

Cast: Shan Wen, Zhou Xin, Chen Rui


The Deal

This piece is played by mo (second-line old male) and chou (clown) roles. It is a testing piece on the players’ expressive capacity and declamation skills, since it is in the speeches that their keen but subtle competition for dominance is played out. As they talk through the details of the case, they gradually review their thoughts and desires, and come to an understanding with one another. At the end, both get what they want.

The new provincial judge Jia Yucun found his clerk to be a monk he used to know when he was poor. Now as he had to give a verdict on the murder committed by Xue Fan, a cousin of the grand Red Mansion, he took the hint from this clerk not to convict Xue, since releasing him meant doing the grand Red Mansion a good turn, and it would surely bring him future advantage. In face of worldly considerations, justice failed.

Cast: Yang Yang, Qian Wei


Recognizing the Lock

A classic stage threesome: Daiyu is jealous but not crude; Baochai is generous yet attracts sympathy; Baoyu is caught right between and that speaks best about his sincerity for both. The personalities of the three are written on their expressions as clearly as the text on the lock pendant. This piece often captures the audience’s imagination with the innocent beauty of young people’s mind and heart.

Xue Baochai was indisposed. When Jia Baoyu visited her, he saw her lock pendant and found that the text carved on it matched that on his jade pendant. Unfortunately Lin Daiyu overheard their conversation and became jealous. Baoyu found it hard to please both, but Baochai was generous enough to help him out of such embarrassment as she felt rather secure of her own situation.

Cast: Xu Sijia, Zhang Zhengyao, Shan Wen


The Scheming and Manipulative Xifeng

This piece is played by dan (female) and laodan (old female) roles. The focus is on the dramatic expression of the two characters. With sensitive acting and highly skillful speech declamation the female role player has to create the duo layers of expression for Xifeng:she very much wants to get involved but pretends to be reluctant. Her eyes can’t stay away from the gift of silver but she acts as if she couldn’t care less. The character of the old nun is no less difficult: a crafty old-hand of worldly matters is portrayed with the highly dramatic use of her voice and face.

Wang Xifeng joined Qin Keqin’s funeral procession all the way to Iron Threshold Temple. She spent the night in Bread Nunnery where the abbess persuaded her to use her family’s authority to force the governor of Chang’an to call off the betrothal between his son and the Zhang family’s daughter, so that the Zhang family can marry their daughter to a richer family. For writing such a letter Xifeng easily got a gift of 300 taels of silver from the Zhang family, but she didn’t know this would eventually cost the lives of the young couple.

Cast: Zhang Jingzhi, Xu Sijia


Reading The Story of the West Chamber Together

The sheng (male) and dan (female) roles of this piece need to excel in all the skills of singing, speech declamation, movement and dramatic expression. The focus is on how the two young lovers communicate their feelings as they read and sing the tune ‘Sand-dust in the clear sky’ in The Story of the West Chamber. They have to show their genuine feelings for each other as they sing the affected melody and lyrics. It is a challenge in all the skills for the two performers.

Baoyu and Daiyu sneaked away to the Fragrance Bridge and sat under a peach blossom tree to read the script of The Story of the West Chamber , although they had been instructed not to read romantic stories like that. As they enjoyed the love poems in that script together, their love for each other was communicated in a subtle manner. When they finished it, Baoyu had to leave. Daiyu on her own heard someone singing a song from The Peony Pavilion, another love story equally romantic but more sad. Daiyu identified her own feelings with the loneliness felt by the protagonist Du Liniang, and that brought tears to her eyes.

Cast: Shi Xiaming, Shan Wen


Shi Xiaomei (Guest)
Famous kunqu artist, National Class One Performer. Shi specialises in xiaosheng (young male role) and has studied under Maestri Yu Zhenfei, Zhou Chuanying and Shen Chuanzhi. She has a wide repertoire portraying varying kinds of characters. Her performance is particularly acclaimed for her clear diction and rich emotions in her use of voice. She has created passionate characters who are masculine and elegant. Her style is unique and is well loved by kunqu audience. She has been awarded the Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre and Wenhua Award. Her name is recorded in 5000 World Famous People and World Famous People (American Biography Society ed.). In 2002 she was endowed jointly by UNESCO and the Chinese Ministry of Culture with the title ‘A kunqu artist who has given prolonged dedication to the art and made distinctive achievements’.

Gong Yinlei
National Class One Performer, specialises in zhengdan (principal female) and guimendan (domestic female) roles. She has studied under Maestre Zhang Xian, Zhang Jiqing and Hu Jinfang. She is renowned for the subtlety and sensitivity in her performance, her elegant appearance on stage and skillful singing which shows the distinctive style of southern kunqu. She has played Du Liniang in The Peony Pavilion, Chen Miaochang in The Jade Hairpin, Madame Cui in Lanke Mountain, Jingniang in Accompanying Jingniang for Thousands of Miles. She has been awarded the Jiangsu Province Red Plum Competition Gold Award, Ministry of Culture Pear Garden Cup First Rank Award, and China Kunqu Art Festival Outstanding Performance Award.

Zhao Jian (Guest)
National Class One Performer, specialises in jing (painted-face role). He has studied under maestri Shen Chuankun and Xue Chuangang. He is esteemed highly among critics and audience for his solid skills. He excels in both dramatic and acrobatic roles, and in both expansive and subtle expressions. His voice is bright, his diction clear. His roles in traditional pieces include Lu Zhishen in The Mountain Gate, Zhang Fei in The Flower Pond, Zhong Kui in Accompanying the Sister to Her Wedding, Li Guo in Assassination and Su Kunsheng in The Peach Blossom Fan. Awards he has received include Jiangsu Province Theatre Purple Gold Award Outstanding Performance Award and China Kunqu Art Festival Honorary Performance Award.

Xu Yunxiu
National Class One Performer, specialises in dan (female role). She has studied under Maestre Yao Chuanxiang, Zhang Jiqing and Hu Jinfang. She has acted in The Peony Pavilion, The Peach Blossom Fan, The Injustice Done Onto Dou Er and Palace of Longevity. She has been awarded Kunqu Promotion Art Award by UNESCO and the Chinese Ministry of Culture jointly, China Kunqu Young Performer Exchange Orchid Award Best Performance Award, and Jiangsu Province Theatre Festival Outstanding Performance Award.

Li Hongliang
National Class One Performer, specialises in chou (clown) and fu (deviance) roles. Currently Deputy Director of Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Kunqu Opera House. He has studied under Zhou Chuancang, Fan Jixin, Yao Jisun, Liu Yilong, Wang Shiyao and Zhang Jidie. His performance is renowned for the details and humour he puts in. He skills are solid and he plays a wide range of characters. He has played Wu Da in Street Parade, Lou Ashu in Fifteen Strings of Coins and Lu Fengxuan in Legend of Red Pear. He has received numerous national and overseas awards including the Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre.

Shan Wen
An outstanding young performer, specialises in guimendan (domestic female role). She has studied under Gong Yinlei, Hu Jinfang, Wu Jijing, Kong Aiping and Zhang Jiqing. Her repertories included The Peony Pavilion, The Quiet Lady’s Chamber, The Jade Hairpin and1699 Peach Blossom Fan. She has been award National Xiqu Red Plum Teenage Group Gold Award, National Kunqu Outstanding Young Performers Showcase 10-Outstandings New Performer Award and China Xiqu Red Plum Golden Flower Award.

Shi Xiaming
An outstanding young kunqu performer, specialises in jinsheng (young civil male role). He has studied under Maestre Shi Xiaomei, Yue Meiti, Qian Zhenrong, Wang Bin and Cheng Min. He has acted in The Peony Pavilion, Legend of Red Pear, Competition of the Flowers and 1699 Peach Blossom Fan. He has been awarded National Kunqu Outstanding Young Performers Showcase 10-Outstandings New Performer Award, Jiangsu Province Xiqu Red Plum Gold Award, and China Xiqu Red Plum Golden Flower Award.

Xu Sijia
An outstanding young kunqu performer, specialises in zhengdan (principal female role). She has also learned wudan (fifth domestic female role). She has studied under Meastre Hu Jinfang, Liang Guyin and Gong Yinlei. She has played roles in Zhu Jiachen Divorcing His Wife, The Legend of the White Snake and Unusual Reunion. She has been awarded National Xiqu Red Plum Gold Award, and National Kunqu Outstanding Young Performers Showcase Performance Award.

Zhang Zhengyao
An outstanding young kunqu performer, specialises in jinsheng (young civil male role), also plays guansheng (official male role). He is a graduate of Jiangsu Theatre Institute Kunqu Class. He has studied under Meastre Shi Xiaomei, Yue Meiti, Qian Zhenrong, Cheng Min and Wang Bin. He has a pleasing stage appearance. His voice is bright and rich. He has acted in The Peony Pavilion, The Jade Hairpin and The Quiet Lady's Chamber. He has been awarded China Xiqu Red Plum Golden Flower Award, Jiangsu Province Xiqu Red Plum Gold Award.

12-14/7 Fri-Sun 7:30pm
price420$360 price320$240 $120
13-14/7 Sat-Sun 2:30pm
price240$240 price180$180 price100$100

Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

• With Chinese and English surtitles.
• Please refer to the ‘Extension Activities’ page for details of other extension activities.
• Each performance lasts approx. 3 hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Click here to download the transcript.