Sat 6 Sep 2014
First, just to confirm that Ear Candy is experiencing technical issues and should hopefully be back online soon. Fern was in Italy for two weeks, we hope with no sunburns this time.
Second, I just updated the blog’s back end software ten minutes ago. The operation was rougher than usual. If you see something amiss, let me know!
It was a busy summer. Hernia operation at the beginning of July and two and a half weeks of watching tv and reading books. Followed by a week of work, which was pretty tiring. Followed by three weeks of vacation (usually I get two, but this year I took an extra unpaid week). My wife and son and I drove down to my parents’ house on Merritt Island in Florida. We stopped in New York City on the way down to see a baseball game. In Times Square on those huge TV screens, I saw jingju faces. Apparently it’s a Chinese public relations effort. We saw the New York Yankees at their new stadium… much nicer than the old one. The nosebleed section is in the shade, how civilized. And it isn’t as death defyingly steep as the old stadium. In Florida, we basically went to the beach in the morning and indoors from noon to end of the afternoon. Visited the Kennedy Space Center — that space shuttle hanging in the building is a marvel! Visited the Universal Studios theme park a second time (my 11 year old needed a Harry Potter wand). Also visited the Disney Hollywood Studios theme park which honestly was a bit boring — but it might have been the 40 degrees C temperature high which floored us a bit. Driving back up, we pit stopped in Charleston, South Carolina. A gorgeous town! We didn’t stop at the Floyd, Virginia music store (http://www.floydcountrystore.com/) or at Cooperstown, New York (http://baseballhall.org/) like I wanted to because of lack of time. It’s a looong drive! Maybe next time.
Then we had our roof replaced as well as new windows put in the front lucarnes. Fern should be able to Google Street View the results in a while (roof used to be brown, now it’s black). This week the suiding is being redone and new gutters will follow. Several houses on our block underwent the same overhaul, they were all built in the 1980s with material that was a bit substandard. It ended up being several thousand dollars more expensive because of bad air circulation in the front which required extra steps. Now we have urethane isolation with air circulation, it should not be as cold in the winter in the top room close to the chimney. Hopefully!
The window replacement in my den required me to move my comic book collection out of the way. My eleven year old son Ben has been bugging me to find that comic book with Captain America versus Modok…
and who is the Doctor Strange enemy, the Dread Dormammu?
I have been putting off sorting everything alphabetically by magazine title for over 25 years… Each of the dozen or so long boxes which were close to the window that needed to be replaced weighed about 40 pounds (20 kilos), and moving them right after the hernia operation was a bad idea. There used to be 18 boxes, but I sold off about a third when I moved to Vancouver late last century. I bought a couple of hard drives with the bucks back then. So, anyway, I special ordered 24 half-sized archival boxes and did the deed, I sorted everything. It only took days. To give you an idea, I have a complete first Volume of the Silver-Age Flash from about 1965 to the mid 1980s. By the way, there’s going to be a new live action TV series of the Flash starting in a month, and there is already a watermarked complete first episode video you can peer-to-peer if you are curious.
So… Am back at work now. And at home I have been setting up a new faster laptop to be able to make electronic music once again. Both my brother and I had serious computer issues and we have been dragging our feet for a year, but the den cleanup allowed me to reconstruct our working projects from about 50 backup DVDs — about 100 GB worth of files. And that doesn’t even cover the 50 or so audio test CDs along the way. You can listen to our more listenable rock noise at lunasam.com.
Beijing opera — always on my mind. Fern said we should try to meet up in Beijing some day soon — I’m just afraid I if go, I might not want to come back and pay my roofing bills!
For this blog, I’m hoping to write up a really neat post soon on “Red Lanterns”. There are a couple of motion pictures with that title, as well as a modern Beijing opera (dozen different productions or more). I just ordered the DVD for a silent movie thought long-lost by that title.
I’ve read the book on Nazimova by Gavin Lambert a while back, this will give me a chance to recap a bit.
Fern, if I post you a USB stick, can you copy me all the 2014 jingju competition videos? Vidown is just not cooperating and I can’t get started!
And Nikhi, if I post you a USB stick, can you copy me all your uncompressed translated videos? Or if you prefer, I could set up a ftp directory on this site for you?
Peace and Love everyone!
Sat 9 Aug 2014
I would like to introduce a fantastic person here, Nikhi Chau, who provided excellent English translations to many Beijing Opera classics. We all know that an English subtitled Chinese Opera video is a rare treasure, so I sincerely hope we will see many more in the future!
So far, you can watch the subtitled versions of Silang Visits His Mother, Tale of the White Snake, Qin Xianglian and The Unicorn Purse here, a perfect weekend program!
Thank You Nikhi!
Sat 5 Jul 2014
I’m not quite healed yet from the hernia surgery, no major issues so far but absolutely no break dancing allowed yet. Anyhow, on to important things, i.e. a complete Beijing Opera from this year featuring two well-known performers!
《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Orphan of the Zhao Family), headlining:
Mu Yu (actor) as Cheng Ying
Dou Xiaoxuan 窦晓璇 (actress)
and Li Yang 李扬 as the evil minister Tu.
Also in the cast:
Jiang Yishan 姜亦珊, Li Xiaopei 李小培, Li Yang 李扬, Tan Zhengyan 谭正岩 and Zhang Kai 张凯.
The Orphan of the Zhao Family, or Orphan of the House Tcho (趙氏孤兒), or The Great Revenge of the Orphan of Zhao Family (趙氏孤兒大報仇) was mentioned in the “Historical Records” by Sima Qian ( 2nd century B. C.) and in the “New Anecdotes” by Liu Xiang (77-6 B.C.). Capturing the popular imagination, it has been retold in many forms. It became a play during the Yuan Dynasty, written by Ji Junxiang (紀君祥) in the second half of the 13th century. It is the first Chinese play known in Europe. Joseph Henri Marie de Prémare translated the play into French as “L’orphelin de la maison de Tchao, tragédie chinoise“, which was collected in Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s “Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise“, published in 1735 (the play was published separately in 1755). Thomas Hatchett (active 1721-1741) published an adaptation of the play in English, “The Orphan of China” (1741) that changes the ending significantly so that the play conforms to classical conventions of the three unities.
Loyalty is the theme of the story, as the hero sacrifices his own son and friend to save the life of another family’s orphan whose family has bee massacred in order that the toddler, once grown up, can later avenge them.
In the state of Jin in today’s southern Shanxi province during and Autumn period ( 770-476 B. C. ), the King of Jin‘s evil minister Tu (屠岸贾) becomes jealous of the growing power and popularity of an upright minister named Zhao Shuo. The minister decides to eliminate his rival.
Zhao is framed and accused of treason for having attempted to murder the King of Jin. Zhao’s entire family except Lady Zhuang (庄姬), the King’s half-sister who had married one of Zhao’s sons, is executed. Before long a son was born to the unfortunate widow.
Hearing of the birth of the Zhao baby, Tu insists that the law must be enforced and the infant executed as well. The mother, however, is too clever to let her precious baby be thus ruthlessly killed. The child had been put under the care of Cheng Ying (程婴), one of the faithful followers of her husband, whose wife happened to give birth to a son about the same time and was able to nurse both babies.
Failing in his search, Tu offeres a great rewards to anyone who delivers the baby within ten days. He threatenes further that he will kill all the babies in the kingdom of the same age as the Zhao child, if he is not found.
Cheng Ying consults with Gongsun (公孙杵臼), another faithful follower of Zhao, and they decide on the following heart breaking plan:
Cheng sacrifices his only son while Gongsun, at the cost of his life, pretends to conceal the Zhao baby on the Shouyang Mountain (首阳山). Cheng reports on Gongsun’s “perfidy”. Tu sends men and finds the (wrong) baby. In order to test the friendship between Cheng Ying and Gongsun, Tu ordered the former to thrash the latter. They both play the tragic game so well that goes as they had planned. Gongsun and Cheng’s child are executed.
Refusing to accept the reward offered him, Cheng requests instead that he and “his son” be allowed to stay in Tu’s mansion, for they, he asserts, might be assassinated by some other (imaginary) follower of Zhao because he had given information concerning the baby’s hiding place.
The stupid minister not only shelters them under his own roof, but adopts the baby and educates him with utmost care. When the fortunate child became a powerful young man, he, following Cheng’s instructions, kills Tu and his family in revenge.
As plans go, this one is a doozy.
This is a lavish production! With shifting scenery, a great number of different costumes to marvel at, and many interesting painted faces. The executioner has a nice pink one:
The complete cast in Chinese:
1、穆雨 饰 程婴； 2、窦晓璇 饰 庄姬（前）； 3、姜亦珊 饰 庄姬（后）； 4、李小培 饰 魏绛； 5、李扬 饰 屠岸贾； 6、谭正岩 饰 赵盾； 7、张凯 饰 公孙杵臼； 8、梅庆羊 饰 晋灵公； 9、常秋月 饰 卜凤； 10、魏学雷 饰 赵武； 11、苏从发 饰 赵朔； 12、王磊 饰 韩厥； 13、翟岗 饰 裴豹； 14、曹阳阳 饰 祖麂
Dou Xiaoxuan is a headliner in China, winner of the last 2012 qingyi competition, and a crowd favorite. She is the only actor in this play loudly hailed on her arrival about 40 minutes in. In this opera she has a brief but very tragic role as the mother of the sacrificed son. She sings well and even has a costume change.
Despite Dou, who adds some spice to the broth, this is essentially a male role (sheng) play.
There are a lot of nice moments in this. Let me know which one is your favorite!
Click here to download Part 1 of the video
Wed 18 Jun 2014
… and think of me as I undergo a hernia repair operation at a private clinic.
Should be laid out for a couple of weeks. Hopefully Géza can give me some pointers on a speedier recovery.
Sun 15 Jun 2014
And so, here is the final opera in the series at the Chang’an Grand Theater commemorating the 110th birthday of Cheng Yanqiu. It features a performer the Chinese clearly appreciate, Chi Xiaoqiu.
锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – Chi Xiaoqiu 迟小秋, Xu Mengke 徐孟珂, Hou Mei侯美 , Lang Shilin 郎石林, Mei Qingyang 梅庆羊, Mu Yu 穆雨
The tempo is a bit faster on some arias, Mu Yu is in the cast. The chous are different. Let’s have one more unicorn, why not? It’s time better spent.
Fern attended this performance while in Beijing last month. She wrote on her blog:
“(At the very end of part 2 of) the CCTV video, you can see a very old man when the audience is shown. He is the son of Cheng Yanqiu, hardly could walk, he was helped to step on stage to say a few words. There was also an old lady, a disciple of Cheng, I forgot her name, she spoke for a long time after curtain call, and gifted two rare items to Chi: a shawl Cheng used to wear on stage, and a head ornament that Cheng gave her long ago. She praised Chi for resembling Cheng so much and (the latter) was so moved that she cried for a long time on the stage.”
Thu 12 Jun 2014
Above: Guo Wei
Below: Lü Yang
and Sui Xiaoqing:
I had these files uploaded a couple of weeks now but not posted yet.
Here is the program:
2014-05-20, Chang’an Grand Theater
《龙凤呈祥·洞房》Long Feng Cheng Xiang·Dongfang (The Auspicious Dragon and Phoenix·Bridal Room) with Sui Xiaoqing 晓庆
《荒山泪》Huang Shan Lei (Tears On Barren Hill) with Guo Wei 郭玮
《六月雪》Liuyue Xue (Snowfall In June) with Lü Yang 吕洋
The show poster is here.
Sat 31 May 2014
Another in the series of Cheng Yanqiu anniversary performances is another of my favorite actresses, Li Haiyan 李海燕, performing the Beijing Opera《梅妃》Meifei (Imperial Concubine Meifei) on 2014-05-22 at the Chang’an Grand Theater.
Fern provided the poster for this performance here.
Original file names:
《CCTV空中剧院》 20140522 京剧《梅妃》 1/2
《CCTV空中剧院》 20140522 京剧《梅妃》 2/2
According to Wikipedia, Consort Mei (d. 755) was an imperial consort of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang. She was one of Emperor Xuanzong’s favorite concubine for a time, before being spurned then ultimately left behind to be murdered during a rebellious attack.
Looking around for a story for this opera, I found a serious scholarly work here which contained:
“Alluding to the story found under the topic of “Mei fei zhuan” 梅妃傳 (The Bibliography of Imperial Concubine of Apricot (note: Wikipedia translates as plum, not apricot) in a famous Tang fiction collection by Cao Ye 曹鄴 (?816 – ?875) entitled Yangshan Gu shi wen fang 陽山顧氏文房 (Gu’s Study of Yang Mountain). The story relates that Emperor Xuan of Tang 唐玄宗 (685 – 762) once secretly bestowed the imperial concubine of Mei one hu of pearl, which was a tribute from another country. However, Mei did not accept it. The emperor was not happy about that and requested the imperial musical bureau to use new music to sing about it, which was titled “one hu of pearl.” Later on, this allusion was used to stress the greatness of a gift. “
The sound and picture of this video are exceptional. Li Haiyan is in excellent voice, with that golden soprano tone of hers I find so pleasing.