Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A.C. Goes Liyuan Opera

No, I'm not leaving my favourite Xiangju to sing Liyuan opera, but as a fan of the latter, I've always wanted to learn how to sing and perform in that genre, and apply whatever I have learn into what I'm doing now. Afterall, it doesn't quite hurt to learn more right?

So here I am, learning how to sing an aria of Chen San from "The Lantern Festival" from "Chen San and Wuniang". Somehow I just find my rendition very odd-sounding, not too sure if it's my singing or that the music, which was made using a MOD tracker, sounded too unauthentic.

Monday, July 21, 2008

jiangxi Ganju Opera: "The Centennial Love" - the video

I had recently blogged about Jiangsu Ganju "The Centennial Love", and guess what; I've found the complete show over 56.com!

The female lead of the show, Plum Award winner Chen Li's "shenduan" was  delicate, and she managed to effectively display and switch between different emotions. Not forgetting that it wasn't an easy feat for an actress to take on a role whose age spanned over 3-quarters of a century!

Now I'm trying to see if there's any way I can get hold of the original VCD or DVD of this show. It's certainly a must buy for me.

Stylish Elements in a Traditional Opera Genre: Quanzhou Liyuan Opera

Quanzhou's Liyuan opera may be one of the oldest existing form of Chinese opera in China, but it doesn't mean that they are so traditional to the point they become old-fashion. At least not in terms of character makeup (costume and hairdo). Instead of spotting regular "datou" on female roles as in more traditional opera genres like Peking opera and Cantonese opera, Liyuan opera had gone through a fair bit of "cosmetic surgery" to inject some modern elements in their character portrayal. Below  are some pictures taken during Fujian Liyuan Opera Experimental Troupe's performance at Taiwan earlier this year. The troupe performed an excerpt from "Li Yaxian" for the opening of Koxinga Festival.

Actually, the "datou" system of hairdo has not been completely removed from Liyuan opera, but their style of "datou" is very different from other opera genre; some featured sharp pointed fringes, some had slanted gelled fringes, and typical the actors do not decorate their hair as elaborate as other opera genres, hence creating a more minimalist and elegant look. Here are some other character portrayals from other shows by the same troupe.

"The Teacher, The Thief": an Old Recording 2

Fellow opera troupe mate XJ was very interested in my previous post on an old recording of "The Teacher, The Thief" by Zhangzhou City Opera Troupe (I believe that the troupe used to be called Zhangzhou Xiangju Experimental Troupe" back then), and hence I decided to put up a second clip here. What I like about Xiangju around that era was their "rawness" and full of local flavour. However, the main drawback was that the opera genre back then are not so well-developed, and hence there're many instances whereby I just can't connect with the show as some parts of the plot or dialogue just seem weird.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Teacher, The Thief": an Old Recording

"The Teacher, The Thief" (《三家福》) is one of the most well-loved Hokkien opera show of the Xiangju genre, and is also one of the highlights of Zhangzhou City Xiangju Opera Troupe. I've seen performances put up by other troupes, but so far none is able to match theirs in terms of feel.

Our version of "The Teacher, The Thief": the finale

Our opera troupe regularly perform this show too, and it is exactly the same, in terms of script and tunes, to the version performed by Zhangzhou City Xiangju Opera Troupe in 1983 at Kreta Ayer Theatre. Some people may not know, but this version was actually the result of major revisions to the script to make it more concise; the original version, which was adapted from a Buddhist tale, was actually much longer and had more subplots. However, nothing of the original version exist now, except in the memories of some of the older Xiangju artistes, as well as some hard-to-get audio recordings. I was lucky to be able to get hold of it, and though it may not be complete, it nevertheless provide an insight as to how Xiangju sounded like before the 60s.
Zhangzhou City Xiangju Opera Troupe's "The Teacher, The Thief": the finale, recorded many decades ago

Jiangxi Ganju Opera: "The Centennial Love"

Jiangxi Ganju Opera Company had recently produced a large-scale modern opera titled "The Centennial Love" (等你一百年). Though I have yet to seen the performance in full, but having watched an excerpt of it over CCTV-11 made me long for it.

"The Centennial Love" is based on a true story that happened in Jiangxi province in the 1930s. It told the story of a child-bride Dujuan who ran away from marriage to elope with her childhood bosom friend Yongsheng. Unfortunately, Yongsheng was already been recruited into the Red Army, and on the night of their wedding, Yongsheng was brought away by his comrades. Before he left, Yongsheng asked Dujuan to wait for him return, but he never did. Dujuan waited for her husband in vain and passed away in grieve in 2005, at the age 94.

Ganju is a very old form of folk opera. It's predecessor was the "Yiyang melody" (弋阳腔), which is one of the 4 oldest form of vocal styles in China. The tunes of Ganju are melodious, but also one of the highest-pitched. Ganju opera singing features lots of backup vocals, especially at the end of each verse, giving it a very resounding character, unlikes its more "gentle" siblings like the Kunqu opera or Liyuanxi opera.

The excerpt I've seen of this show was the part showing the young couple who are about to be separated on the night of their wedding. It featured quite a lot of dance movements, showing the young lovers' affection for one another, but at the same time sad that they'd be separated soon, without knowing when they would reunite again. Being very observant of minute details, there was a particular gesture which made me fell for this show: before the young man was about to leave, Dujuan brought out a pair of canvas shoes which she had made herself and put them on for Yongsheng. This may seemed like a very negligible gesture on stage, but it actually tells a lot of story; one could almost feel all the love, care and well-wishes being put into the ordinary-looking pair of shoes. I'm sure the show in its full length is as good as this excerpt, and hopefully there'll be a VCD or DVD release of this show soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company Coming to Singapore

Leading Taiwanese opera troupe Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company (明华园戏剧总团) is coming to Singapore soon to perform.

As part of the Moonfest for this year (mid-autumn festival celebration), the company will be staging their well-loved show, "The Immortal of Penglai" (蓬莱大仙), starring Sun Cuifeng as the leading character.

"The Immortal of Penglai" tells the story of a handsome, but arrogant half-deity Li Xuan, who offended the Goddess of Yue, and in revenge, the latter destroyed his mortal body while his soul was away. In order not to become a roaming ghost, Li Xuan had no choice but to attach his soul onto the body of a dead beggar, and became the more popularly-known "Iron-clutch Li" of the Eight Immortals.

This Hokkien opera will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre on 6 and 7 September, 8pm, and tickets are already on sale at SISTIC. Fans of Hokkien opera, please set these dates aside for this event!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Arts @ NWCDC: Chinese Opera Nites

Once again, our opera troupe worked with Northwest CDC to present a series of Chinese opera performances at various community clubs in the northwest region from September to November this year. Known as "Arts @ NWCDC: Chinese Opera Nites", it was slightly different from our previous collaborations in that some other opera troupes were involved as well. and we helped liaise with the other troupes. I was delegated with the task of designing the performance posters as well as the event booklet for this series of performances.

THe troupes involved in this series of performances include: Er Woo Amateur Musical & Dramatic Association, Nam Hwa Amateur Musical & Dramatic Association, Kong Chow Wui Koon Cantonese opera Troupe, Xin Yi Cantonese opera Troupe, and of course us, Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe. The performance schedule is as follow:
Hokkien opera "Zhao Jingniang and Zhao Kuangyin" @ Chong Pang CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.09.20)

Teochew opera excerpts @ Chong Pang CC by Er Woo Amateur Musical & Dramatic Association (2008.09.21)

Teochew opera excerpts @ Bukit Timah CC by Nam Hwa Musical & Dramatic Association (2008.10.04)

Hokkien opera excerpts @ Bukit Timah CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.10.11)

Cantonese opera excerpts @ Ulu Pandan CC by Kong Chow Wui Koon Cantonese Opera Troupe (2008.10.18)

Cantonese opera excerpts @ Ulu Pandan CC by Xin Yi Cantonese Opera Troupe (2008.10.25)

Hokkien opera excerpts @ Marsiling CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.11.01)

Hokkien opera excerpts @ Fuchun CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.11.08)

Hokkien opera excerpts @ Zheng Hua CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.11.15)

Hokkien opera "Zhao Jingniang and Zhao Kuangyin" @ Zheng Hua CC by Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (2008.11.22)