L’Isle Joyeuse

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hello folks!  After a summer hiatus, Nine Dragon Spot is back on the air with some exciting news: in September and October this blog will be broadcasting from Taipei, Taiwan.

A friend in Taichung asked me: “Is there really that much Chinese opera going on in Taiwan this fall?”  The answer is: “Yes!”.   Direct from Nanjing, the Jiangsu Province Beijing Opera Theater will give daily performances, September 10-15 in Taipei’s Zhongshan Hall.  Their program is much too varied and interesting to be summarized here – I’ll devote a separate post to them in the next few days.  The best of Nanjing will return the next month when the great Jiangsu Province Kunqu Theater performs the drama “A Dream in Vain” (Nán Kē Mèng, 南柯梦) over two nights (October 18-19, repeated October 20-21).   Cross-strait collaboration is the name of the game on the weekend of September 22-23, as Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese performers of Henan (Clapper) Opera (Yùjù, 豫剧)  team up for performances of the newly-edited historical opera “Granny Liu” (Liú Lǎolao, 刘姥姥) and the modern opera “Fragrant Spirit” (Xiānghún Nǚ, 香魂女) .  These shows will also performed earlier in the week in nearby Zhunan (竹南).

Taiwan, of course, has no shortage of its own opera troupes.   Taiwanese opera (Gēzǎixì, 歌仔戏) will be represented on the afternoons of September 15 and 16 by the Sun Hope Taiwanese Opera Troupe (“New Ideas for Taiwanese Opera”) in the operas “The Prince of Shooting Star Sea”(流星嗨王子) and “The Butterfly Dream” (装周蝴蝶梦).    The bright-eyed members of the Ming Hwa Yuan Youth Troupe will take the stage three times from September 21-23.   That same weekend, the Chun Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe will perform “Prince of the Night” (夜王子).    Taiwan’s Clapper Opera Troupe performs “The Maiden Hua Jia Wu” (花嫁巫娘自) on the evening of September 15.  Taiwan’s Kunju Opera Troupe gives afternoon performances the weekend of September 29-30 of “The Butterfly Dream” (蝴蝶梦) and “Mount Lanke”(烂柯山).   And just to round things out,  the GuoGuang Opera Company will stage the Beijing operas “The Unicorn Purse” (锁麟囊) on September 8 and “The Blossom Field Error” (花田错) on September 15.

And this is all just in September!  October will be equally busy.   When I’m not stuffing my face with Din Tai Fung’s soup-dumplings, the country’s traditional kidney-and-testicle stew, or Taipei’s notorious stinky tofu, I’ll be blogging about the city’s vibrant operatic life.

There Will Be A Sea of Blood

Many thanks to China’s Global Times for keeping us au courant with the latest news from the world of art and entertainment.

I wonder whether there are franchising opportunities outside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.   Performances of Mozart and Puccini by a group calling itself the Sea Of Blood Opera Troupe would be totally awesome.

Scene from 2012 performance of The Flower Girl, staged in Xi'an  Photo: CFP

Scene from 2012 performance of The Flower Girl, staged in Xi’an Photo: CFP

North Korea’s Sea of Blood Opera Troupe brought their classic The Flower Girl to China recently. Having performed in eight cities so far, the group will stop in Beijing to stage shows at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) from July 19-22.

The Flower Girl features a girl who picks flowers to sell in the market in order to support her family. With a blind sister and a sick mother at home, the family experiences a tough time, ruled by an oppressive landlord. After the death of the mother, the eldest son escapes from prison and saves his two sisters.

The opera’s 24-year-old leading performer Chae Chul-ok is the fifth generation of her family to play the protagonist.

The stage designer told Chengdu Daily that the set, sound effects, lighting and costumes have all improved since their last performance in China in 2008. A LED screen displays scenes and subtitles from the film.

Revolutionary opera

The Flower Girl is one of North Korea’s five great revolutionary operas, a handful of classical, revolution-themed operas.

Two generations of leaders in North Korea have contributed to the performances. According to Kim Il-sung’s memoir, he wrote the script for the opera in 1930 in Jilin Province, China. After a few rehearsals, the performance was staged for the 13th anniversary of the October Revolution of the same year.

The Flower Girl was turned into a film in the 1970s, directed by Kim Jong-il. The deputy head of the opera troupe Joo Young-il once told the Chinese press that Kim Jong-il personally selected the 38 songs in the film among 2,200 song choices.

Related video: the first part of the 3-hour North Korean epic/epoch-making opera/movie “Sea of Blood”.  The soundtrack, it seems, was recorded at the bottom of a deep, deep well.   Enjoy, comrades!