Fern wrote the following description for this show on her Ear Candy blog here. It was really excellent and well researched, as usual for her. The only thing missing was the videos.
(Fern post begins here)
Beijing Opera Dan Role Highlights:
1.《宇宙锋》Yuzhou Feng (The Cosmic Blade) – Tian Hui, Ren Guangping, Li Chun, Bi Xixi
Tian Hui knows this play pretty well.
I found a good description of the story, focusing on the scene that can be seen in this video, 修本 Xiu Ben, I also recommend the whole article, Learning Yuzhou Feng written by Rose Jang:
The play is set in the Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.), when the lascivious successor of the First Emperor, the Second Emperor (Qin Ershi 秦二世), presides over a divided court. His prime minister, Zhao Gao 赵高, is a scheming politician.12 In an attempt to neutralize one of the people in the way of his consolidation of power, Kuang Hong 匡洪, Zhao marries his daughter, Zhao Yanrong 赵艳容, to Kuang’s son. The young couple turns out to be a good match, but the union does not achieve Zhao Gao’s purpose and he employs a more vicious plot to neutralize Kuang Hong. As a mark of imperial favor, the Kuangs had been given the precious sword after which the play is named. Zhao Gao frames the Kuangs for treason by having the sword stolen and used in a purposely unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the emperor. The sword is taken as evidence of the Kuangs’ complicity and the entire clan is ordered to be executed. There is only one survivor, Zhao Yanrong’s husband, who manages to escape by disguising himself as one of the servants. The real servant dies in his stead.
It is at this point of the story that the scene “Xiuben” occurs. At the beginning of the scene, in his quarters, Zhao Gao announces the success of his plot, but also mentions a rumor he has heard that states that Zhao Yanrong called a servant her husband. He summons his daughter, who has moved back home, to ask her about the rumor, and she appears with her faithful mute maid (known in the play only as Yanu 哑奴 [„mute slave”]). Although initially frightened by the accusation, Yanrong manages to dissolve Zhao Gao’s suspicion by claiming that it would be absolutely absurd for her to call a mere servant “husband.” She then persuades Zhao Gao to exercise magnanimity and compose a memorial to the emperor requesting a pardon for the Kuang clan. While Zhao Gao is drafting this memorial, much to Yanrong’s joy and relief, they are both alarmed by a surprise visit by the Second Emperor, who is returning from an excursion. Yanrong quickly hides herself, but not before the Second Emperor catches a glimpse of her beauty and instantly takes a fancy to her. After reading Zhao Gao’s memorial, the Second Emperor immediately approves it. Then he orders Zhao Gao to present his beautiful daughter at the court the following day—he wants to make her one of his concubines.
After the Second Emperor leaves, Zhao Gao announces to his daughter the good news about the memorial and her upcoming presentation at court. Upon hearing of the latter, she directly accuses him of lacking shame and only craving honors and riches. She claims that while she was bound to follow her father’s wishes in the case of her first marriage, that is no longer true with any subsequent marriages, but an angry Zhao Gao accuses her of rejecting the authority of both father and emperor. Trapped inside this patriarchal web of tyranny, Yanrong’s only and last hope comes from her faithful mute maid, who is as full of wisdom as she is short of voice. The maid pulls Zhao Yanrong aside and gestures to her to put on a show of insanity. Inspired by the suggestion, Yanrong exits the stage and returns with robe and hairdo in disorder, and scratches blood marks on her forehead in front of the audience. To complement this visual portrait of madness, she treats her father as if he were her lover, spewing lewd and crazy phrases and making seductive gestures, all the while following the hints from the mute maid. Her feigned madness is taken for real by her father, who despondently sends her back to her room. Yet a more severe battle awaits her the following morning at court, in front of the Emperor and his heavily armed entourage. Yanrong’s unflinching confrontation with the Emperor, in which she uses the disguise of insanity to curse him to his face, is the content of the ensuing scene, “Jindian.”
2.《穆柯寨》Mukezhai (Muke Fortress) – Gao Hongmei
This isn’t the first time either Gao Hongmei stars in this action-packed play. The story is simple: Mu Guiying beats them all.
Mu Guiying practiced martial arts from a young age after her bandit father Mu Yu (穆羽) who ruled the Muke Fortress (穆柯寨). One day Yang Zongbao, the youngest warrior of the illustrious Yang clan, came to the fortress demanding the Dragon-Taming Wood (降龍木) on the order of his father, Marshall Yang Yanzhao. Mu refused so they fought in a duel which resulted in Yang Zongbao being captured. While Yang Zongbao refused to surrender and demanded death, Mu found herself attracted to her prisoner and boldly made a marriage proposal, which Yang Zongbao eventually accepted. After Yang Zongbao returned and reported the events, an infuriated Yang Yanzhao ordered the disgraced son executed. To save Yang Zongbao, Mu came out of the fortress and engaged in a battle with Yang Yanzhao, also capturing him. Mu apologized to her father-in-law and finally Yang Yanzhao agreed to the marriage and welcomed Mu to his family and troops.
3.《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – Jiang Yishan, Jin Xiquan
Well, this evening’s performance isn’t the show of surprises: audience favorite from Jiang Yishan’s regular repertoire.
What a busy week for Jin Xiquan. Three performances in a row in Shanghai, then he suddenly had to fly to Beijing to substitute Li Hongtu on the 5th in Under the Shade of the Willow, and on the 6th, he was in Shanghai again, performing Chun Gui Meng with Li Peihong.
4.《坐宫》Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace) – Li Jie, Li Jun
(end Fern post)
I had so much trouble downloading these files I thought it might be a good idea to share them here. It is a perplexing and ongoing mystery to me why Budapest has better broadband to China than Eastern Canada.
Click here to download Part 1 of the video
Click here to download Part 2 of the video
Click here to download Part 3 of the video
Click here to download Part 4 of the video
The picture quality is excellent. The sound has a bit of a live hall sound to it, but I got used to it.