Sunday, August 26, 2007

Yueju's "Romance of the Red Masion"

"Romance of the Red Masion" is by far the most popular show in Yueju opera, popularised by great Yueju actors Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan in the 60s. This show had somewhat became the representative of the Xu-styled xiaosheng and Wan-styled huadan singing. But not many people would have heard of another variation of this show, performed in Yin-style (xiaosheng) and Yuan-style (huadan).

This alternative rendition was performed by the late Yin Guifang in 1962, and her leading-female counterpart was Li Jinfeng. I am not certain if Li Jinfeng was a Yuan-styled huadan though, but subsequent re-runs of the show in Yin'a troupe (Fujian Fanghua Yueju Opera Troupe) were all performed in this style, with Wang Jun'an and Li Min being the troupe's best representatives of it. Shanghai Yueju Opera Company had did a similar rendition in 1999 starring Zhao Zhigang and Fang Yafen, as a move to revamp this timeless classic.

Here are various clips of this new rendition, alongside the ones from the "classic" version, and it's not hard to see the difference in feel and style. It is to be noted that the version shown here are from the 2001 Hong Kong performance, which was accompanied by Chinese orchestra, while the original scores used in the 1999 Shanghai version was supposedly meant to be played with westen orchestra.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hokkien Liyuan Opera: Li Yaxian

I went for Siong Leng Musical Association's "Li Yaxian" performance last Saturday afternoon, and the melody of Liyuan opera is still in my mind. Sad to say, not many people around me, including those who are into Chinese opera, are able to appreciate such opera, most claiming it to be too slow-paced.

Siong Leng's version of "Li Yaxian", despite having said to incorporate a modern-day character and some contemporary drama elements inside, is still rather traditional. The role of the modern-day character, a photographer, is somewhat a narrator to the different excerpts of the show (some scenes were snipped to make the show more concise). Along the way, this photographer "interviewed" the actors playing the various roles with regards to the show. I think this part is rather creative, for Liyuan opera, being a very ancient form of opera, might be too distant for many young people to be able to appreciate, especially how the characters in the show think and feel. By doing so, it somehow bridge the gap between the modern audience and the ancient roles of the opera. Besides the creativity shown here, I'm also rather satisfied with the performance venue. Liyuan opera is not known to be a opera featuring lavish set or grand casts, and I think the recital studio is just a perfect place for such a small-scale opera; the acting space is not too big, yet the lighting and sound facilities are good enough.

It's a pity I wasn't able to take pictures or do video recording within the venue itself, so for now, I'll just showcase two excerpts from this show, performed by Quanzhou City Liyuan Opera Experimental Troupe. The two excerpts here are "The Ball Game" and "Lian Hua Luo".

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hokkien Gao Jia Opera Excerpt "Three Thousand Taels of Gold"

Miko had justed posted a video of her troupe (Liyuan opera) rehearsing the part on "Three Thousand Taels of Gold" (from the show "Li Yaxian") in her blog, and now I shall post the Gaojia opera version of it up as well.

This version here is performed by Wu Jingjing of Xiamen Jin Lian Sheng Gaojia Opera Troupe. The singing aria for the main role in this excerpt, Zheng Yuanhe, is the same for both opera genres, with a slight difference in some wordings. However, as this excerpt here is intended to be performed as a standalone excerpt with little connection to the original show, it has been re-choreographed, and therefore those who are familiar with the Liyuan opera version of this excerpt may find this version a bit unfamiliar.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hokkien Xiangju Opera "The Bridge of Mother and Son"

Showcasing here, are two clips from Hokkien Xiangju opera “The Bridge of Mother and Son”. Now some of you viewers, especially those from my opera troupe as well as those who had watched Zhangzhou City Xiangju Opera Troupe’s show, might think how come these clips don’t seem familiar. The version featured here is performed by Zhangpu County Xiangju Opera Troupe, and is actually the original version before Zhangzhou City Xiangju Opera Troupe revised the show and made it part of their repertoire.

Allow me to say a bit about the show. The script was written by the late Xiangju opera scriptwriter Tang Yinchang, who is renowned for his works like “The Tale of the Medicinal Stone” and “Protecting the Baby”. His masterpieces usually centred on family-orientated themes which touch the hearts of the common-folks. In this show, the plot is about an unfilial son Liu San, who forgot about his mother’s existence after he got married to Qi’niang. His mother, Madam Xu, got so upset that she was forced to attempt suicide but was saved by the magistrate. The magistrate was furious when he found out what happened and wanted to imprison the young couple, but was stopped by his wife. He then invited Liu San and Qi’niang over to hint them if they had lost anything valuable at home. The young couple counted everything they had at home, but missing out on Madam Xu. The magistrate finally lost his temper and wanted to throw them into jail. It was only at this juncture did Liu San finally recalled he had a mother whom he had not seen for a long time. After crying out to his mother, Madam Xu ran out to see her son, and both hugged together in tears. The magistrate allowed the young couple to bring Madam Xu home, but Liu San and Qi’niang were remorseful for their past actions, and suggested that they be locked up as a punishment. The magistrate agreed and arranged for them to stay for the night in the jail while Madam Xu became their invited guest for dinner.

In my opinion, Zhangpu County Xiang Opera Troupe’s performance standard is rather average, especially in terms of singing. Some of the actors actually sang rather badly. However, I think the troupe do score point in terms of their script, as I believe the late Master Tang was their anchor scriptwriter. Their music is also one of their strength too, and I particularly like their “Zasui” melody a lot.

With the demise of Master Tang, I’m not sure what the direction is for the troupe, and it has been quite a while since there was news from them. Hopefully the troupe will not fall apart just like that, for after all, they had produced quite a few well-received shows in the past.