Peking Opera actress Shi Yihong introduced the legendary royal concubine Yang Yuhuan of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to life within the capital, with Peking Opera manufacturing, The Royal Consort of Tang, operating on the Nationwide Centre for the Performing Arts from Wednesday to Sunday.
Yang is named one of many 4 beauties of historic China. Her tragic love story with Emperor Li Longji has been portrayed in numerous artwork types, and nonetheless intrigues audiences immediately.
In 1925, Peking Opera grasp Mei Lanfang (1894-1961) premiered his authentic work, Taizhen Waizhuan, or The Anecdotes of Taizhen, which was impressed by The Track of Eternal Sorrow, a story poem during which the Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi portrayed the love affair between Yang and Li.
Yang can also be named Taizhen. Mei informed the romantic and tragic story of Yang and the emperor by Peking Opera, also referred to as jingju, a 200-year-old artwork type that mixes singing, dancing and acrobatics.
Mei was a well-known nandan (a person enjoying a feminine function) — a Peking Opera observe cast at a time when girls have been forbidden to take to the stage — who performed the main function of Yang within the present. With authentic songs and choreography, the present, the efficiency of which lasted for 4 nights, was an amazing success.
In 2001, Mei”s son, Mei Baojiu (1934-2016), revived and restaged his father’s basic work, Taizhen Waizhuan, by narrowing the four-night-long present right into a one-night efficiency. Mei Baojiu, who was additionally a famend nandan artist, together with two younger Peking Opera actresses — Li Shengsu, who was educated by Mei Baojiu, and Shi, then a rising Peking Opera star in Shanghai — carried out the main function, Yang, within the new model, which was titled The Royal Consort of Tang.
By conserving the most well-liked songs and emphasizing the love story between Yang and the emperor, Mei Baojiu additionally invited Peking Opera songwriters so as to add new music items to the manufacturing, together with a tune referred to as Li Hua Track, or Ode to Pear Flowers, which turned the present’s theme tune. The tune is extensively credited with attracting a brand new viewers to Peking Opera because of its catchy melody and poetic lyrics.
“Taizhen Waizhuan was certainly one of Mei Lanfang’s most celebrated works and was certainly one of Mei Baojiu’s favourite works of his father. When he determined to restage it in 2001, Mei Baojiu needed it to be loyal to his father’s authentic model, whereas including up to date components to enchantment to the viewers,” says Shi.
In 2008, Shi performed Yang in The Royal Consort of Tang together with Mei Baojiu on the Nationwide Centre for the Performing Arts, one yr after the venue opened to the general public.
“Once I met Mei Baojiu in March 2016, he informed me that he needed to stage the manufacturing once more. Sadly, he handed away in April that yr,” says Shi.
In 2019, Shanghai Peking Opera Firm restaged the present with Shi enjoying the main function of Yang and Peking Opera actor Li Jun enjoying the emperor. It was staged for 5 reveals, which all bought out.
“We deliberate to convey the manufacturing to Beijing, however the plan was postponed time and again as a result of coronavirus pandemic,” provides Shi.
Within the newest rendition, the artistic workforce has added extra components, similar to symphonic music, multimedia expertise and a brand new stage design. Like Mei Baojiu, Shi says that the workforce tries to remain loyal to Mei Lanfang’s model.
One of many highlights of the manufacturing is that Shi introduced the “jade-plate dancing” — a scene Mei Lanfang carried out in Taizhen Waizhuan — to the stage once more. In line with Shi, there are not any movies of the “jade-plate dancing”, however solely an previous photograph, which reveals Mei Lanfang posing with the talent of woyu — crossing his legs and sitting down gracefully — on a jade plate.
“There was an viewers surrounding him in that photograph, which is rather like immediately’s immersive theater. He had all the time been a pioneer in his personal artwork. Once we revived the dance scene, we had a a lot greater plate and choreographed new actions,” says Shi.
She provides that famend choreographer Huang Doudou is among the many artistic workforce, making the present up to date and interesting to the audiences, particularly the youthful era.
“I have been practising very laborious. I actually admire Mei Lanfang as a result of his productions all featured lovely and artistic dance strikes. He was an amazing artist at showcasing the fantastic thing about girls,” Shi says.
Martial arts have additionally been added throughout a scene with the character, when a basic, named An Lushan, turns into a insurgent occupying the imperial metropolis of Chang’an, immediately’s Xi’an in Shaanxi province. The emperor, Li, is compelled to flee to southern China. The troops who accompany Li and Yang mutiny, blaming the concubine for the troubles and asking the emperor to place Yang to dying. Li refuses, however the troops won’t again down and he has no selection however to conform. He admits that he has allowed himself to be seduced away from his duties and consents to Yang being strangled.
Shi, born in 1972, started her Peking Opera coaching as a wudan, or a feminine martial arts performer, on the age of 9. When she turned 15, Shi took up qingyi roles, that are younger or middle-aged girls characters that exude refinement and beauty, and have become a disciple of Mei Lanfang’s Peking Opera model.
In 1990, Shi joined the Shanghai Jingju Theater Firm. She is eager on reviving the previous artwork type and making an attempt to mix it with a various vary of different artwork types. In 1999, she collaborated with Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun, and introduced a Peking Opera adaptation of Victor Hugo’s basic novel Notre Dame. In 2017, she mixed a Peking Opera basic, Farewell My Concubine, with chamber music in Shanghai. The manufacturing was staged at Princeton College and The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York Metropolis that yr.