The New York Times reports today on a recent outdoor performance in Shanghai, akin to a “Shakespeare in the Park” production, of a dramatically shortened version of the classic Kunqu opera “The Peony Pavilion.”
I don’t know much about Chinese opera other than that it’s beautiful, moving, transporting, and very enjoyable, a unique art form in danger (greater danger, in any case, than, for example, Kabuki) of fading away. A lot could be said, pro or con, about shortening, jazzing up, or otherwise altering a play to appeal more to a modern audience, about what should or should not be done in the interests of preserving, reviving, or continuing a performance tradition in danger of dying out. But it’s a touchy subject, one in which I have made missteps before, and one in which certain friends of mine are far more well-versed. I think I will just let the article speak for itself, and invite you to take a look at the beautiful slide show and video clip provided by the Times.
I have been privileged to enjoy the opportunity to see various Chinese opera performances in New York, London, and Honolulu, but never in China, and never a full-on professional performance. Enjoyable as those performances were, and as much as they made an impression upon me, and transported me to their world quite successfully, from the pictures and the brief video clip, I am sure that this performance was on a whole other level. I very much hope one day to see a full-on professional performance of Chinese opera, in China. And if only I should be so lucky to witness it in a venue such as this, in the atmospheric environment of the outdoors, with a soundtrack by Tan Dun!