Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cantonese Opera Recital on October 14, 2018

This past Sunday I went with a volunteer who worked at the LiterASIAN Festival to see a Cantonese opera excerpt singing show at the Norman Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver. It was really enjoyable and brought back fond childhood memories. My grandmother used to take me to watch Cantonese operas like 帝女花 (Princess Changping), 再世紅梅記, 牡丹亭驚夢 (The Peony Pavilion) at the old Lee Theatre in Hong Kong.

At the show, I didn't recognize the tunes of the songs but they were melodic and catchy and totally engrossing. With Cantonese operas, the singing skills of the performers (especially the female lead vocal) are crucial in holding the audience's attention. I was mesmerized by the female leads' trilling and thought the accompaniment of strings and winds and percussion went exceedingly well. But I must admit that I am nowhere close to qualifying as a critic.

From the lyrics I could tell which of the classical tales the songs are based on. All the songs are expertly chosen in terms of their literary value, as they epitomize the canon of Chinese classical literature.

Three of the songs are based on a sad departing scene in Water Margin 水滸傳 where the lead character Lin Chong 林冲 is being exiled for offending a corrupt high official and is forced to separate from his wife; one is from a scene in the famous legend "Goddess of River Luo" 洛神傳 where Cao Zhi 曹植 reunites with his deceased lover Consort Mi 宓妃 in a fantasy; one from a romantic dream scene in the renowned drama The Peony Pavilion 牡丹亭 (written by iconic Ming playwright Tang Xianzu 湯顯祖); one is about the star-crossed lovers Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, who turned into a pair of butterflies after death - 梁祝恨史; one is based on the real tragic love story of Song poet Lu You 陸游 and his first wife Tang Yuan 唐婉; and the last one based on a fantasy dialogue between Jia Baoyu 賈宝玉 and Lin Daiyu 林黛玉 in the Dream of the Red Chamber 紅樓夢

A round of applause to the Pacific Coast Heritage Centre Museum of Migration Society (PCHCMoM), the organizers of this spectacular show!

I just wish the MCs had presented the moving stories behind the songs for the benefit of Westerners and CBCs in the audience.

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