Chinese-language opera blends East and West

2013-6-27 14:24:00 From:

With a touch of modern art techniques and the unmistakable nasal-style vocals of the classic Chinese opera, a celebrated Canadian director blends the best of the East and the West to tell a familiar ancient Chinese tale named Feng Yi Ting.

Feng Yi Ting is the historic account of Diao Chan, a legendarily beautiful woman who was the central figure in a dangerous rivalry in the Han dynasty circa A.D. 220. The story of may have been told hundreds of times, but it's the first time Chinese opera enthusiasts in Toronto can experience it from the perspective of foreigners.

Director Atom Egoyan's interpretation of the epic story of Diao Chan makes its Canadian premiere on Thursday. The story features a 45-minute performance that combines Beijing and Sichuan opera and offers a new twist as well.

"For the people who don't know Chinese opera, they're going to hear a vocal tradition that they've never heard, and they're going to be exposed to something that is new," Egoyan said, "For the person who knows Chinese opera, they'll be excited by the fact that they're seeing it extended into a new place."

Adapting celebrated Chinese composer Guo Wenjing's 2004 opera, Egoyan explores the story of Diao Chan as she uses her seductive wiles to turn a brave soldier Lu Bu against a ruthless warlord.

Being his first foray into this particular art form, Egoyan said Guo's score, which fuses Chinese and Western classical styles with the use of four Chinese instruments -- pipa (a four-stringed musical instrument), dizi (a transverse flute), erhu (a two-stringed bowed musical instrument) and sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) -- together with a Western chamber group, was a big inspiration.

"He writes cinematically. He's writing like film in a way," Egoyan said, "So, the moment you hear the music, you begin to think of these images of the warriors, or these images of these banquets. It's a question of how to create that theatrically."

Using cinematic techniques, Egoyan also adds a Western touch to the story. He said that with Sichuan opera, there's often a distinct use of ghost symbols and face changing.

Because of that, Egoyan said, he tried to portray things in his own way, with the use of technology he's familiar with. Egoyan attempts to recreate those characteristics with projections.

"It's a form of that, the way the figures grow and they shrink but it's not used in the classical idea," he said.

Egoyan also maintains other quintessential aspects of classic Chinese opera, such as the use of gestures.

"You don't show horses, you show the gesture of a whip. Everyone knows what it means," he said, "So what I was excited by was then how do you preserve that idea through the new media, through Western symbols, Western theatrical devices?"

Shen Tiemei, an experienced Chinese Sichuan opera singer, portrays Diao Chan and she says she had to work closely with Egoyan in order to find a balance between the two sides.

"When we rehearsed, I just didn't feel quite comfortable with the director's way of thinking," she said, "The traditional Chinese opera is symbolic and abstract, like when we say he or she, you and I, they're not referring to a specific person."

"The director asked us to tell the story to the Western audience with great patience, just like a kindergartener," she added.

Many of the visual aspects are infused with Western elements. The opera is sung in Mandarin and there are English subtitles on a screen. There's also a sharp contrast in costuming, as Shen dons a western dress, while Beijing opera singer Jiang Qihu, who plays Lu Bu, wears traditional garb.

It's not what Shen is accustomed to, but she thinks it's a change that'll help bring classic Chinese opera to the global stage.

Egoyan may be new to the art form, but Shen says he's shown great respect for both the singing and acting styles of Sichuan opera.

Shen believes Egoyan's modern take will help pique the interest of Western audiences and move them to learn more about classic Chinese opera.

"I think when using this approach we have managed to keep the features of Sichuan opera, instead of destroying this traditional opera," she said.

Feng Yi Ting, the first Chinese performance invited into the 7th annual Luminato, received rave reviews when it premiered at the Spoleto festival, and then again at the Lincoln Center Festival last year. It will be playing in Toronto from June 20th to the 22nd.


中文 English 日本語 한국어 Français Deutsch Русский язык Español Português عربي Melayu Indonesian Italiano Монгол Tiếng Việt Lao BIG5

·Study in Beijing ·Study in Shanghai ·Study in Chongqing ·Study in Guangdong ·Study in Heilongjiang
·Study in Jiangsu ·Study in Shandong ·Study in Shanxi ·Study in Sichuan ·Study in Anhui ·Study in Tibet
·Study in Henan ·Study in Hunan ·Study in Hebei ·Study in Jiangxi ·Study in Shaanxi ·Study in Zhejiang
·Study in Liaoning ·Study in Hubei ·Study in Tianjin ·Study in Yunnan ·Study in Fujian ·Study in Qinghai
·Study in Guizhou ·Study in Ningxia ·Study in Hainan ·Study in Guangxi ·Study in Gansu ·Study in Jilin
map Need Assistance? Have Questions?  Skype:  E-mail:
Copyright © 2004-2014 Inc. All Rights Reserved. 京ICP备10029054-1号