Sunday, June 29, 2008

Xiangju Opera Version's "The Three Scholars of the Zhang Family"

Fans of Hokkien Gezi opera will not be unfamiliar with "The Three Scholars of the Zhang Family" (一门三进士), as it's considered a gem of the genre, and has been an all-time favourite among local Gezi opera lovers.

This show, however, is seldom performed in Xiangju version. Today, I was lucky to find one on There're 2 surprising points to note: it's performed by a Xiangju opera troupe from Quanzhou (Quanzhou is not a strong base for Xiangju, to start with), and secondly, the songs sung are exactly as they were in the Yang Lihua version decades back. Of course, however, their songs have more Xiangju feel, for afterall this is Xiangju and not Gezi opera. Although this troupe came from Quanzhou, they do not spot the typical Quanzhou accent as like in Gaojia opera, Liyuan opera or Dacheng opera. The reason for this was because Xiangju opera spread there during the period of time when Xiangju master Shao Jianghai was recuperating in that region. Shao Jianghai started teaching Xiangju opera there, and since he had stayed in Zhangzhou long enough, naturally he spotted a Zhangzhou accent, and his students picked up this characteristic as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shaoxing Lian Hua Luo Opera's "The Teacher, The Thief"

Our troupe will be performing our most well-loved show "The Teacher, The Thief" (三家福) this Friday at Tampines East Community Club. It has been ages since we last performed this show, and I'm excited over it, because this is one of the very few shows which I play the lead.

In conjunction with our performance, I've decided to showcase another rendition of this show in the genre of Shaoxing Lian Hua Luo opera. "Lian Hua Luo" is actually a form of folk opera which evolved from street performances in the olden days featuring beggars and street artisans playing simple musical instruments, dancing and singing along. Anyway, my reason of showcasing this version of "The Teacher, The Thief" is not entirely due to us going to perform soon. I'm showing it partly also to show my happiness that our opera genre's show has been adapted into other opera genres. In the past, it usually that we adapt shows from other genres but not the other way round. Having our own shows adapted into other other genre to me is a very important thing, as it is an indication of the high standard the show has, and also it allows more people to know the existence of our opera genre (that is, of course, if our opera genre was clearly credited).

Declination of Creativity in the Field of Chinese Opera

Lately I was very troubled with the decline of creative performance in the Chinese opera field in China. What I meant by "creative performance" is not doing experimental acts or pushing artistic boundaries; Chinese opera in general, at this stage, is still not quite fully ready for that I feel. This "creativity" is more on producing an original production, be it based on historical events, pure fiction, or even adapted from other sources. The reason why I'm feeling troubled, is that I started to see "clones" everywhere; clones of popular or well-acclaimed productions from one opera genre being copied exactly as it is and reproduced in another genre (with the exception of amending the dialogues and lyrics to suit the linguistic characteristics of the latter, as well as replacing the music of the former to those belonging to the latter).

Of course it is arguable that well-received shows would definitely tempt people to adapt them, and this has been the case since decades ago, but back them, most adaptation are restricted only to just the script. Nowadays, the degree of adaptation goes beyond that. An example I have on hand is "The Pearl Pagoda" originally produced by Jiangsu Province Xiju Opera Company. This production was not exactly an "original" one so to speak, as it was actually rewritten based on the classic Xiju version that had been made famous since the 60s or so. Nevertheless, it was still well-received, and some changes were made to made this production more in-line with the modern-day audience's perspective. Haicheng Chaoju Opera Troupe and Hainan Province Qiongju Opera Company subsequently adapted it into their own repertoire, and to my horror, they're almost identical, even in terms of costume design, set design, direction sense and artistic gestures of actors.

The original Xiju version by Jiangsu Province Xiju Opera Company

The adapted Teochew opera version by Haicheng Chaoju Opera Troupe

TV snapshots of the adapted Hainanese opera version by Hainan Province Qiongju Opera Company (they even used the same theme music form the original Xiju version!

I'm certainly not against adapting shows from other genres into one's own repertoire. However, it must serve a constructive purpose other than trying to cut down the cost needed to employ a playwright or save the time used to write/ direct a completely new show. A well-known Chinese opera playwright (sadly I couldn't remember his name) once said that if one don't inject any new elements into an adaptation, then it shouldn't have been adapted at all in the first place, and I strongly believe in that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Jay Chow Goes Yueju

Don't be mistaken by the heading; Jay Chow is NOT singing Yueju. However, recently (actually it has been almost half a year already), a netizen by the name of "Wei Ye Na" had did a cover of Jay Chow's "Ju Hua Tai", but instead of making a parody out of the lyrics, he actually sang it in the style of Yueju music, complete with a rather authentic Zhejiang accent. Take a look at the video clip before and you'll see what I mean.

I personally quite like this version, a rather nice fusion of "classy pop" with traditional Yueju. The person doing the cover has got a rather nice vocal tone too, and I wonder if he was even at least an amateur Yueju performer himself. Of course, being someone who had quite watched Yueju quite extensively, I found his singing a little less authentic; he was singing in Yin-style almost throughout the whole song (excluding the chorus part of course), but at one particular section, he suddenly broke into the Xu-style, an act no Yueju actor would do unless for special dramatic reasons according to the context of the script.