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