New show por­trays cel­e­brated poet Du Fu in a dif­fer­ent light

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN

The China Na­tional Tra­di­tional Orches­tra, es­tab­lished in 1960, con­tin­ues to showcase China’s mu­si­cal her­itage, but with a mod­ern touch.

In its lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­duc­tion with the Chengdu Tra­di­tional Orches­tra from Sichuan prov­ince, ti­tled Look­ing for Du Fu, the China Na­tional Tra­di­tional Orches­tra pushes bound­aries by invit­ing Chi­nese di­rec­tor Yi Lim­ing to cre­ate an imag­i­na­tive Chi­nese mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence based in an­cient times.

The show will pre­miere in Bei­jing on Satur­day and will be staged in Chengdu a month later.

Based on Chi­nese poet Du Fu (AD 712-770), one of the most cel­e­brated Chi­nese po­ets of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618907), the pro­duc­tion, which the di­rec­tor calls a “mu­si­cal verse drama”, com­bines tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic with con­tem­po­rary the­ater.

Us­ing orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions by mu­si­cian Liang Zhongqi and play­wrightWang Yuan­fei, the show de­picts the poet’s life story in three parts— pas­toral life, war­fare and dreams.

The poet came to Chengdu as a war refugee in AD 759.

The next year, he built a thatched cot­tage and spent most of his time there be­fore leav­ing Sichuan in AD 765 af­ter pen­ning 240 of his ap­prox­i­mately 1,400 po­ems.

Yi says there were five works on the poet Du staged in the first half of this year, in­clud­ing opera, drama to bal­let.

So, the idea of telling the poet’s story us­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese in­stru­ments was both ex­cit­ing and a chal­lenge.

“Usu­ally when the au­di­ence comes to a show by the China Na­tional Tra­di­tional Orches­tra, they en­joy the mu­sic with the band mem­bers sit­ting on the stage play­ing the in­stru­ments. How­ever, this time, we have the mu­si­cians not just play­ing on­stage but also ‘in the air’,” says the di­rec­tor, re­fer­ring to the 10-me­ter high and 10-me­ter wide in­stal­la­tion, which is di­vided into 28 boxes.

“Some of the mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing the 100-strong orches­tra and 80-strong cho­rus, per­form in the ‘boxes’ and each of the ‘boxes’ func­tions as a sound box, de­liv­er­ing the sounds of the in­stru­ments to the au­di­ence.”

Be­sides, 12 cam­eras and eight dig­i­tal pro­jec­tors will of­fer the au­di­ence a vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ence while lis­ten­ing to 7:30 pm, Aug 20 and 21. Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts. No 2West Chang’an Av­enue, Xicheng dis­trict, Bei­jing. 010-6655-0000. the sounds of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese in­stru­ments.

“It’s hard to use a big Chi­nese mu­sic orches­tra to de­pict an an­cient cul­tural celebrity. Mu­sic is ab­stract, but we want to por­tray the poet in a con­crete way,” says Yi.

“So we chose some of Du’s most fa­mous po­ems and com­bined a po­etry recital with the orches­tra.”

“Du has been por­trayed in paint­ings, sculp­ture­sand­many other art forms. But the re­alDu can be found only in his po­ems. I hope that au­di­ence mem­bers will be able to pic­ture the poet in their imag­i­na­tions. That’s why we call the pro­duc­tion Look­ing for Du Fu. The an­swer be­longs to the au­di­ence.”

Yi, a pro­lific di­rec­tor, who has been with the Bei­jing Peo­ple’s Art The­ater since grad­u­at­ing from the Cen­tral Academy of Drama af­ter ma­jor­ing in set and light­ing de­sign in the late 1980s, is known for his Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional pro­duc­tions.

He pre­sented the opera ver­sion of On the Land of White Deer, an adap­ta­tion from con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture, at Bei­jing’s Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter in June.

Mean­while, ac­cord­ing to Xi Qiang, pres­i­dent of the China Na­tional Tra­di­tional Orches­tra, thanks to Yi, the Du Fu per­for­mance is a break­through for the orches­tra, whose mis­sion is to pro­mote China’s tra­di­tional mu­sic while be­ing cre­ative and con­tem­po­rary.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The show Look­ing­forDuFu has a unique stage pre­sen­ta­tion — mu­si­cians per­form in “boxes”.

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