Gets a unique touch at out­door per­for­mance venue

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page -

Imag­ine an en­tire 15-hectare cul­tural park as an out­door site for a per­for­mance adapted from The Peony Pav­il­ion, a well known mas­ter­piece by Tang Xianzu, a play­wright who lived in mid-16th and early 17th-cen­tury China.

For the per­for­mance, you need to move around to fol­low the progress of the show, which is staged in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and ac­com­pa­nied by fab­u­lous light­ing and wa­ter ef­fects.

Tang wrote the play to be staged as a clas­sic Kunqu Opera. Now, af­ter two years of prepa­ra­tion, a large lo­ca­tion-based mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion is be­ing staged in Tang’s home­town Fuzhou, in East China’s Jiangxi prov­ince.

Called The Dream of the Peony Pav­il­ion, it is the first large-scale lo­ca­tion-based per­for­mance adapted from a tra­di­tional Chi­nese play.

The show in­te­grates tra­di­tional Chi­nese the­ater art, es­pe­cially its singing and cos­tumes, with mod­ern stage tech­niques, in­clud­ing a com­plex sound and light sys­tem.

The Peony Pav­il­ion, also called The Re­turn of the Soul at the Peony Pav­il­ion, is a Ming Dy­nasty (13681644) ro­man­tic tragi-com­edy writ­ten in 1598. It de­picts a love story be­tween the daugh­ter of a high­rank­ing of­fi­cial and a young scholar.

In the end, they over­come all dif­fi­cul­ties, tran­scend life and death, and fi­nally get to­gether.

Jointly pro­duced by the Fuzhou Cul­tural & Tourism In­vest­ment De­vel­op­ment Co and the Bei­jing Yang­guangx­in­rui Cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Co un­der the Sun Me­dia Group, the 80-minute show strings three parts of the orig­i­nal story to­gether, with per­for­mances staged in three ma­jor ar­eas of a cul­tural park built specif­i­cally for the show in Wen­changli, a her­itage site in Fuzhou.

Dong Yong, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the show, says the show’s creative team wanted to “pre­serve the essence of the opera” while be­ing in­no­va­tive.

“We at­tached equal im­por­tance to the ex­pres­sive power of tra­di­tional opera and its res­o­nance with the au­di­ence,” says Dong, who is him­self a tra­di­tional opera en­thu­si­ast.

To al­low the au­di­ence to ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­cerpts from the orig­i­nal opera, some dif­fi­cult singing lines were adapted.

Ac­cord­ing to Liu Zhoum­ing, the chief di­rec­tor of the show, cut­tingedge stage tech­nol­ogy is em­ployed in the show to help im­prove the pre­sen­ta­tion of the clas­sic work, in­clud­ing recre­at­ing all the pavil­ions, ter­races and tow­ers de­picted in Tang’s work.

The en­tire per­for­mance site has a lot of elec­tric, light­ing, acous­tic and me­chan­i­cal equip­ment to help achieve the de­sired stage ef­fects, de­spite the huge dif­fi­culty in main­tain­ing them.

Over 80 per­cent of the per­for­mances are com­pleted on stages placed above wa­ter that can also move up and down.

There is a gi­ant 360-de­gree wa­ter cur­tain, which rises to a height of 20 me­ters above the lake’s sur­face dur­ing the show with mul­ti­ple lay­ers of laser images pro­jected on it.

One of the high­lights of the show is when the cur­tain rises and all the fig­ures from the three realms jointly ex­press their best wishes to the pro­tag­o­nists.

Wang Yu­gang, the chief de­signer of the stage and light­ing, says: “Tang’s work which uses dreams to re­flect re­al­ity gives us much room for cre­ativ­ity when it comes to stage de­sign.”

Wang says that all of the largescale stage build­ings were con­structed with reg­u­lar wood or ce­ment, so that the venue can be used as a tourist site dur­ing the day and a per­for­mance site dur­ing the night.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, 18 old houses dat­ing back more than a cen­tury were care­fully re­stored and skill­fully in­cor­po­rated into the per­for­mance.

A wall with a land­scape paint­ing show­ing the daily life of Ming, which is 156 me­ters long and nine me­ters high, was also cre­ated to give the au­di­ence a sense of im­mer­sion.

As the show pro­gresses, the per­form­ers guide the au­di­ence who are tour­ing the park at the same time.

The pro­ducer has de­signed two view­ing routes and those tak­ing the VIP route have a chance to ap­pre­ci­ate the show from close quar­ters.

Zhang Xiao­jun, a tourist from South China’s Guang­dong prov­ince, says: “The show was an eye opener as it al­lowed me to both en­joy au­then­tic clas­sic opera and ap­pre­ci­ate a first-rate stage pre­sen­ta­tion.”

Yang Lan, the pres­i­dent of Sun Me­dia Group says: “Kunqu opera is a very el­e­gant art and The Peony Pav­il­ion is a clas­sic play with a his­tory of more than 400 years. So, how to make the au­di­ence un­der­stand the show and ap­pre­ci­ate it was a big chal­lenge for us.

“As a re­sult, we put in great ef­fort to achieve break­throughs in re-cre­at­ing the scenes and the at­mos­phere us­ing tech­nol­ogy.”

The gov­ern­ment of Fuzhou says that the show will be­come a core part of the lo­cal cul­tural tourism in­dus­try, which con­tin­ues to dig into the legacy of Tang Xianzu and his work in a bid to raise the city’s pro­file.

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