Sunday, February 08, 2009

Experimental Gezi Opera

Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe just went experimental in their latest production "Dream of the Lotus Pond". This is also a long-awaited new production ever since they started on their mega-project "Shao Jianghai".

"Dream of the Lotus Pond" is one of a kind in Gezi opera genre, or at very least in mainland China, as this production was not staged in a typical proscenium setting, but in a traverse stage. Staged in Xiamen Cultural Centre's Xianfeng Theatre, the actors had to enter and leave stage through the audience seating area. Surprisingly, the audience seemed to be able to accept this relatively unconventional way of Chinese opera presentation rather well, and members of the audience gave positive feedbacks like "very intimate" and "very direct". In fact, it seems that this form of presentation is very suitable for this production, since this show is not about narrating a story, but more of telling a moral. Unfortunately I'm unable to tell more about the plot as I can't seemed to find a synopsis or summary of the plot off the net. Luckily though, I found quite a number of rather well-taken photographs of the show in action. So sit back, and enjoy!

Taipei Fei Feng Yi Opera Troupe's "Dou E's Grievance"

Yesterday was my first show of Tapei Fei Feng Yi Opera Troupe, despite them having performed since 23 January.

The show they staged yesterday was "Dou E's Grievance", quite is quite a classic repertoire across many opera genres. Being a street opera troupe, I am very curious as to how they would stage it. Fortunately, this show is still rather tradition, keeping to the essence of the original text. The only difference was that the role of Zhang Lu'er, the baddie character usually portrayed as a clownish role, now had a more suave-looking appearance. It was no doubt a very far off from the conventional portrayal of this character, I feel it is still pretty much acceptable.

What I like about this show is that the dramatic structure of the story. In most other versions, the plot moves in a straight chronological pattern, and the dramatic climax, which is the part where Dou E was executed, are located right in the center of the performance. This form of story-telling is problematic to me, because the plot from the climax onwards until the resolution, which is merely about Dou E finding her father and redress her grievances, lacks the heightening tension to keep me enticed. In Fei Feng Yi's version, however, the same climax was pushed to almost to the end of the performance, and following that immediately was the resolution. In comparison, the flow of the plot is much smoother, and I feel more engaged to the story.

Of course, that is not to say the performance is not without flaws. There're instances whereby actors wear watches on stage, and inappropriately dressed ensembles. However, being street opera in nature, one can't really ask too much in these aspects, since it's supposed to focus more on entertainment than artistic appreciation.

Ghost of Dou E; at first glance I thought she resembled Kim Boey of our troupe!

Dou E's father Dou Tianzhang; I supposed the actor playing this role is the troupe leader as she was the spokesperson for the troupe last night during the interval

I thought this costume for Madam Cai looked nice, but feels too much like a Manchurian costume.

Such a suave-looking Zhang Lu'er; can you accept such drastic difference?

Actors in action.

Actors in action (court scene).

Execution scene.