Sun 2 Mar 2014
Above, Zhao Huan on 2014-03-01 at Place Des Arts in Montreal in “The Revenge of Prince Zidan”.
Before the show, we ate a Leméac on Laurier close to Du Parc, an absolutely splendid French restaurant with superlative cuisine and service.
We showed up an hour early for the jingju briefing in French, with out of costume demonstrations by Mr. Li… didn’t catch his first name and it’s not in the program. Very nice and humorous. Someone videotaped it, I hope they post it.
I have to say, what a nice crowd, a nice mix of older francophones and a very sharp looking younger anglophone contingent. Only one lady right behind me kept snickering each time the queen spoke because of the Beijing Opera mannerisms. Other than that, enthusiastic applause.
Unfortunately the seats were a third full at best. Minimal to no publicity beforehand. The cast was not identified anywhere except in the production credits of the “Spectacular China” event brochure, along with musicians and organizers listed alphabetically by name without function. And yet, the performers gave their all.
The play was absolutely brilliant in person after seeming a bit ho-hum on video. The exact same cast as the video from what I can tell. Fu Xiru was awesome. There were two translations displayed for the show, one in French which translated the Chinese prose, very interesting, and one in English which was directly from Shakespeare. I thought reading both added extra depth to the play, but English-speaking only attendees might have missed out a bit.
I sat third row right next to the stage, and was repeatedly about 20 feet from Zhao Huan. I did not read the translations while she was singing. Initially she had a noticeable issue with some low notes, but once past that she splendid overall. I was so excited I forgot the camera in the car. The stage photos on this post are by my better half, Johanne, with her Android phone. She always takes better pictures than I do anyway.
Actress Guo Ruiyue 郭睿玥 as Hamlet’s mom had a towering voice and impressive volume. She unexpected hit the highest notes of the evening. Bravo! No, wait… Hao!
This version of the production was tuned a bit, it did not include the “prince of the netherworld” painted face role, which, in retrospect was a bolt-on and not really useful to the story.
(click on above picture to zoom in, nice one!)
Sadly, I was unable to catch the performers after the show. Numerous reasons why. I can list a few off. We had to drive back 300 km in a minor blizzard and I had to get up early. We had spent the day at Ikea first. Place Des Arts is a sprawling complex with US airport-like security. My wife might not have understood why I wanted to stalk a nice little Asian lady for an autograph. There was a very strange rave event in the streets with light shows mixing colors into the falling snow right outside Place des Arts and the performers might have wanted to walk out and go see that instead of me. C’est la guerre, what can I say.
Yet, a memory I shall always cherish.
A behind the scenes video in French I couldn’t rip at:
And here is another backstage video I could rip made by Montreal newspaper The Gazette:
Click here to download video (6 MB)