Peking Opera Theatre
The Chinese title of Elegant Sounds of Good Times “Zhaodai Xiaoshao” literally means “an era of political stability and prosperity” and “music and instruments of an artistic genre that conform to the rites”, and more specifically, refers to a Qing court opera. During the Qianlong reign (1735–1796), the imperial court compiled a number of Kunqu Operas, of which Elegant Sounds of Good Times is one. It is a story based on the novella Saga of the Yang Family of Generals. Later, during the Guangxu reign (1875–1908), the Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the Office for Theatre Performances to adapt the drama to “luantan”, a Peking Opera version. The script of the present performance by the Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing is based upon this palace version: the original script, notes on rehearsals and costumes, historical graphics, relics and records, etc., all in the palace archives, were meticulously restored by seasoned Peking Opera experts and veteran artists, who went through a total of 121 scripts to pick material related to the “sushuang horse” for compilation. The present play consists of two episodes. The first tells how Princess Qiong’e and Yang Silang (fourth son of the Yang family) help Meng Liang to steal a thoroughbred meant for tribute, and the second, how the evil courtiers try to use the pretext of trying out the sushuang horse in order to incriminate all those at the Yang Residence, resulting in Dowager She beating up Xie Tingfang. Every effort is made to re-enact the true essence of Peking Opera that graced the theatre over a hundred years ago: from the symbolic-suggestive stage curtains, entry and exit curtain-lifting routines, the ritual of setting up stage and removal, the pared-down ensemble placement, the “full mask” make-up, to tracing original features of singing, speech delivery and performing skills. The solid cast of the company will perform with natural vocal projection in order to showcase the original qualities and spirit of nascent Peking Opera of yore.
The Distinguished Artistic Features of Court Peking Opera
Make-up follows the records in Thirteen Outstanding Features of Opera from Tongzhi to Guangxu and the historical pictures. The male actors of early Peking Opera would paint their faces white, with only rouge applied. There were no hairpieces to make the face look smaller, and that is why this style for the male actors is called dakailian (the big painted face).
Stage setting is designed after the “theatre pavilion” style of presentation. Stage curtains in the old style replace the “virtual entrance and exit” as one sees in Peking Opera today. Designated personnel would be stationed at those points to “lift the curtains”, and each movement must be meticulously measured, to the point of observing how high a curtain should be raised, and what sort of strength would be used. The group has invited Maestro Wang Peilin to teach and supervise those personnel hands on. Also revived are the routines of setting and clearing the stage, changing the scenes, etc., which are carried out right in front of the audience. All these are reinstated to show what a court performance was like in the Qing Dynasty.
Musical accompaniment is played by a five-piece ensemble throughout. It is placed in the middle of the stage, and the small number is different from the eleven-piece ensemble normally used by other Peking Opera troupes. Out of the five, the drummer would play the drum only as he is responsible for marking the percussive points. The rest of the four need to play several instruments. For example, the one playing the large gong will also play the sheng and the jiuyinluo, the erhu musician will also play the small gong etc.. Such a different placement of the ensemble on stage adds to the challenge of coordination between the actors and the musicians. The audience can therefore see “at a glance” how the musicians work while they enjoy the performance.
Performers would do away with the current vocal styles and acting practices. No follow-microphones are used to amplify their voice, and instead they must project their voice through hard-earned skills. These hark back to the way Peking Opera was performed 150 years’ ago, when there was no such thing as stylistic schools for voice, acting, etc.. The enunciated sounds are therefore the ‘pristine’ form of early Peking Opera. Also, as the Qing palace troupes did not allow for female performers on their cast, the present cast involves male artists such as Wen Ruhua and Wu Wenge in transvestite roles.
Elegant Sounds of Good Times (Volume I)
17/7 (Fri) 7:30 pm
Auditorium, Ko Shan Theatre New Wing
Volume One recounts a battle between Song and the Liao State, in which Yang Silang (fourth son) is captured and made the husband of the Liao princess. The State of Wuhan is sending a sushuang horse to Song as a tribute, but when the convoy passes through Youzhou, the horse is snatched by a Liao general. Yang Liulang (sixth son) of Song orders Meng Liang to steal the horse back. Meng kills a fisherman and disguises himself as his son to present fish to Empress Dowager Xiao in Liao. There he runs into Silang by chance. Out of her love for her husband, the princess helps Meng Liang to steal the sushuang horse.
|Cast||Tan Xiaozeng, Wen Ruhua, Hu Wenge, Han Juming, Bao Yan, Sun Zhen|
Elegant Sounds of Good Times (Volume II)
18/7 (Sat) 7:30 pm
Auditorium, Ko Shan Theatre New Wing
Volume Two begins with the construction of the Tianbo Mansion on the Yang Residence grounds. As it was a present from the emperor to reward the Yang’s for their patriotic deeds, its front gate displays an imperial plaque that says “officials to alight from their sedan chairs; military personnel to dismount”. Villainous courtiers Wang Qiang and Xie Tingfang pass by the mansion on horseback on purpose, and are chided by Dowager She. The duo picks a fight by asking to ride the sushuang horse. They get a beating, upon which they bring the case to court and charge the Yang’s for insulting and beating up imperial commissioners. Emperor Taizong wants to have the Tianbo Mansion demolished. Dowager She asks help from the Eighth Prince who manages to bring the emperor around. Armed with a forged imperial edict, Xie Tingfang comes to demolish the Mansion, which entails a severe beating ordered by Dowager She.
|Cast||Zhang Shu, Han Juming, Sun Zhen, Song Haoyu, Liu Mingzhe, Wei Xuelei, Wang Xiaoli|
Tan Xiaozeng is a National Class One Performer trained in laosheng (old man) roles, and winner of the OCA Outstanding Asian Performers Award. He is a sixth-generation exponent of the Tan Xinpei stylistic school, having trained under his father Tan Yuanshou and grandfather, Tan Fuying, and other virtuosi in the art form such as Wang Shaolou, Yang Jufen, Zhu Lianshun and Xu Yuanshan. Tan has a sonorous, broad-ranged voice, and is capable of performing both civil and military roles. He is acclaimed for delineating the distinguished Tan artistic style.
Wen Ruhua is a National Class One Performer and a famous actor specialised in qingyi (virtuous female) roles in the Zhang Junqiu stylistic school. He has an elegant, handsome stage persona, an impressive voice and insightful acting skills. His repertoire includes The Man Known as the “Fair-skinned Gentleman”, A Mistaken Marriage, The Story of Lady Qiu and The Peony Pavilion (Peking Opera version).
Hu Wenge is a National Class One Performer, specialised in qingyi roles of the Mei Lanfang stylistic school and winner of the Outstanding Artist Award presented by the World Artists Association, USA. He trained under many virtuosi such as Jiang Fengshan, Yu Hualong, Wang Zhiyi and Li Yufu. In 2001, he became the formal disciple of the famous Peking Opera virtuoso, Mei Baojiu. Hu is acclaimed for his performances in The Shoe Story, King Chu Bids Farewell to His Concubine, The Cosmic Sword, The Drunken Royal Concubine etc.
Han Juming is a National Class One Performer specialised in jiazi hualian (a painted face sub-role type with stilted stylized movements) roles and graduated from the Beijing Chinese Opera Art’s College. He studied under Xi Yushen, Gao Changqing, Yang Ronglou, Gao Shenghong, Liu Yonggui, He Jinlong, Liu Dachang, Xia Yunlong and Jing Rongqing. He was the winner of the Grand Prix at the 6th China Arts Festival, a nomination for the ‘Ten Major Spectacular Performances in China’, and a Repertory Award at the 10th Wenhua Awards presented by the Ministry of Culture.
Bao Yan is trained at the School of Performing Arts of the Beijing Normal University. He received personal coaching from three leading names in Peking Opera - Cheng Zhixiong in 1990, Huang Dehua in 1998, and Bai Qilin in 2003. His repertoire includes The Trial of a Decapitated Head and The Assassination of Tang Qin, Borrowing the East Wind from A Meeting of Heroes, The Black Dragon Residence, Catching Sanlang Alive, Famen Temple, The Incarceration of Su San etc.. He was the winner of Martial Arts Competition in the Military Repertory of Chinese Traditional Theatre in 2006, a Silver Award at the All China Competition for Young Actors in Peking Opera in 2008, and another Silver Award at the “Red Plum” Chinese Traditional Theatre Competition in 2009.
Zhang Shu is a performer specialised in laosheng roles. He was accepted as the pupil of Ma Changli. His repertoire includes Yang Silang Visits His Mother, The Aborted Coup, The Hero, An Absentee staff and The General Wu Zixu.
Sun Zhen is a National Class Two Performer specialised in wenchou (civilian comic male) roles. He studied under Wang Shaoda, Tian Xixiu, Jin Guangyao, Huang Dehua, Bai Qinlin, Zhang Yongsheng and Ma Zengshou. He was the winner of the Supporting Actor Award at the ‘Star of the Future in Peking Opera’ Open Competition, and has represented the Theatre in many overseas cultural exchange activities.
Song Haoyu is laosheng performer of Ma School. He graduated from the Performing Arts Department of Beijing Normal University. He studied under masters including Zhang Xuejin, Li Fuchun, Tan Yuanshou, Bai Yuanming, Zhang Qingliang, Wang Zhilian, Yang Ruzhen. In 2003 he became Zhang Xuejin’s student. His repertoire includes The Orphan of the Zhao Family, A Handful of Snow, The Black Dragon Residence, The Four Scholars and Sanniang’s Lessons for Her Son.
Liu Mingzhe specialises in xiaosheng (young male) roles of Ye School. He graduated from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. He studied under the masters including Ye Shaolan, Liu Xuetao, Zhang Chunxiao, Liu Yaochun, Xiao Ruitian, Ru Shaoquan, Wang Zhenyi. His repertoire includes Luo Cheng Calling at the City Gate, Romance of the West Chamber, General Lu and his Beauty Diao Chan, The Battle of Chibi.
Wei Xuelei graduated from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. He studied under many masters including Yang Shaochun, Wang Daicheng, Li Jingde, Zhang Shanqi, Ma Yuzhang, Liu Fusheng, and so on. He has owned the First Prize of Peking Opera Basic Skills Competition, the winner of Opera House Cup National Article School Competition and was awarded the Red Plum Prize of the First National Peking Opera Contest.
Wang Xiaoli graduated from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. She studied under many masters, such as Xie Ruiqing, Song Danju, Zhang Zhengfang, Wang Yuzhen, Ye Hongzhu, Jiao Cuirong, Li Yali. She won the Performance Award at the National Young Peking Opera Actors Television Grand Prix of CCTV and the Silver Award at the 6th National Young Peking Opera Actors Television Grand Prix of CCTV.
|Chief Coordinator and Literary Editor||Wu Jiang|
|Rehearsal Instructors||Sun Yuanyi, Yang Shaochun, †Chang Guixiang|
|Project Coordinators||An Na|
|Stage Manager||Liu Shujun|
Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing
Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing is a key national opera entity throughout the country. Artists of the older generation, including Mei Lanfang, Shang Xiaoyun, Cheng Yanqiu and Xun Huisheng (known as the“Four Famous Actors of Dan Roles”) and Ma Lianliang, Tan Fuying, Zhang Junqiu, Qiu Shengrong and Zhao Yanxia (known as the “Top Five Actors”) have left the company with valuable artistic assets. Their stage manners, artistic accomplishments and schools of performance have helped to shape and define today’s Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing. The company has staged over hundreds of classical plays and created more than dozens of new plays since its establishment and has won many top national awards. The company has many outstanding performers. Mr. Mei Baojiu, patriarch of the Mei Lanfang school, and Mr. Tan Yuanshou, patriarch of the Tan Xinpei school are the icons of Peking Opera community in China. Tan Xiaozeng, Zhao Baoxiu, Wang Rongrong, Du Zhenjie, Li Hongtu, Chi Xiaoqiu, Zhu Qiang, Chen Junjie and Zhang huifang enjoy great popularity and work as the backbone of the company. Many young performers have come to the fore, such as Zhang Jianfeng, Yang Shaopeng, Dou Xiaoxuan, Zhang Xinyue, Du Zhe and Chang Qiuyue. They are the rising stars and major forces of the company.
Information provided by Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing
17–18/7 (Fri–Sat) 7:30pm
Auditorium, Ko Shan Theatre New Wing
|Prices||$380 $240 $120*|
- With Chinese and English surtitles
- Please refer to the Extension Activities page for details of extension activities
- Each performance lasts approx. 2 hours without intermission
*Some seats have restricted view
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