UCLA Live kicks off its Fifth International Theatre Festival with one of the world'slandmark operas, the 400-year-old Chinese masterpiece "The Peony Pavilion,"written and produced by Kenneth Pai, directed by Wang Shiyu and performed bythe Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of JiangsuProvince in its
Book I, "The Dreamof Love," will be performed 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29; Book II, "Romance andResurrection," at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30; and Book III, "
While this groundbreaking 16th-centuryopera has been seen in the
"The Peony Pavilion" is thefinest example of kun opera, a 500-year-old art form that combinesliterature, music, dance and drama with extraordinary purity and precision.Often compared to its more flashy descendant
Kun opera's long, melodious arias, accompaniedchiefly by the bamboo flute, in addition to other woodwind and plucked stringinstruments, are valued not only for the notes that are played, but also forthe librettos that continue to be read as literary works of art. Complementingthe lyricism and beauty of the music are the flawless dancing and actingstyles, where even the simplest movements have been precisely choreographed andhanded down through generations.
"The Peony Pavilion" wasoriginally written in 1598 by Tang Xianzu, a contemporary of WilliamShakespeare, and shares "Romeo and Juliet's" power and magic of youthful lovewhich triumphs over social convention. Considered the most beautiful love storyin Chinese literature, "The Peony Pavilion" was radical for its time, given itscelebration of eroticism, female sexuality and power, and marriage forged bylove. The opera, written during the time of Confucian orthodoxy, challenged thestrict codes of rationality, moral correctness and social etiquette thatpredominated. Tang Xianzu, a member of a new breed of thinkers, believed in theprimacy of innate human emotion rather than a restrictive moral code.
The story of "The PeonyPavilion" revolves around the passion between Liu Mengmei, a handsome youngstudent, and Du Liniang, the daughter of a high official who has an eroticdream about Liu Mengmei only to discover upon awakening that her lover was amere fantasy; she literally dies of a broken heart. Meanwhile Liu Mengmei, whosimultaneously had dreamed of Du Liniang, becomes enraptured by her beauty whenhe accidentally discovers the girl's self-portrait hidden in her family'sgarden. Although Du Liniang is now a ghost, the two make love and agree tomarry. Liu Mengmei has his lover disinterred, despite the risk of execution forgrave robbery. Her body becomes flesh again. Moved by the deep love between LiuMengmei and Du Liniang, the emperor pardons Liu Mengmei's actions and ordersthe lovers to marry, an unorthodox decision at a time when arranged marriageswere the accepted custom. In short, it is a story of the triumph of love.
Unlike recent contemporaryproductions of the opera, which fused kun music with other regionalChinese or modern musical genres, the score for Pai's version uses TangXianzu's lyrics, which are accompanied by period instruments. The music primarilyconsists of arias with dialogue and asides interwoven. And unlike
Countering the tradition or putting veteran performers inthe leading roles, Pai selected two young stars from the Suzhou Kun OperaTheater of Jiangsu Province — ShenFengying in the role of Du Liniang and Yu Jiuling in the role of Liu Mengmei — in order to moreaccurately portray the story of young love as well as attract youngeraudiences. Both artists trained at the SuzhouKun Opera Theater of Jiangsu Province, a troupe renowned for its classicalmethods and unique location near Kunshan, the birthplace of kun opera.
"The Peony Pavilion: Young Lovers' Edition" had its worldpremiere at the National Theatre in Taipei, Taiwan, in April 2004, followed by performancesin Hsinchu, Taiwan; Hong Kong; Suzhou; Hangzhou; Beijing; Shanghai; Macau;Tianjin and Nanjing, among other Chinese cities.
UCLA Live's 2006–07 Fifth International Theatre Festival
Friday–Sunday,Sept. 29–Oct. 1. The Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of Jiangsu Province,in its
Saturday–Sunday,Sept. 30–Oct. 8. Playwright and performer Heather Woodbury'sworld premiere of
Wednesday–Sunday,Oct. 11–15. The L.A premiere of Andrew Dawson's
Tuesday–Sunday, Nov. 7–12. The
Wednesday–Sunday, Nov. 15–19. The
Tuesday–Sunday,Nov. 28–Dec. 10. Mabou Mines' "DollHouse," in itsWest Coast premiere, is an OBIE Award-winning adaptation of Henrik Ibsen'soriginal text, directed by the iconoclastic Lee Breuer. Set amid furniture ofdollhouse-sized proportions, men (portrayed by actors less than 4-and-a-halffeet tall) dominate women (played by actresses nearly 6 feet tall) in asurrealistic feminist anthem.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12, 14,16 and 17.
Wednesday,Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13, 15, 16 and 17. STO
The UCLA LiveInternational Theatre Festival is supported in part by an award from the NationalEndowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
Tickets for "The Peony Pavilion" are available for $65, $46 and $30 per part; the three-part series can bepurchased at a 15 percent discount, for $175 and $126. Tickets can be purchasedonline at http://www.uclalive.org, in person at the UCLA CentralTicket Office at the southwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, bycalling (310) 825-2101 and at all Ticketmasteroutlets.UCLA students may purchase tickets in advance for $17. Studentrush tickets, subject to availability, are offered at the same price to allstudents with a valid ID one hour prior to showtime.
UCLA Live isan internationally acclaimed producer and presenter of music, dance, theaterand spoken word, bringing hundreds of outstanding and provocative artists to