The fine art of Beijing opera in five masterpieces, including Farewell My Concubine and Princess Changping
After a four-year absence, the China National Peking Opera Company makes a triumphant return to Hong Kong and to the HKAF, with three full-length operas and excerpts from two more—each representing pinnacles of excellence in the company’s extensive repertoire. Among the cast for these compelling dramatic works are two of China’s most famous and charismatic Peking opera stars, Li Shengsu and Yu Kuizhi.
Of the full-length works, Princess Changping pays tribute to the Cantonese opera classic, written by the legendary Tong Tik-sang, which premiered in 1957. The performance at the 46th HKAF was greeted with acclaim by Festival audiences. Set in the dying days of the Ming dynasty, it recounts the ill-fated love between Princess Changping and Zhou Shixian.
Farewell My Concubine is the best-known work of the company’s founding president, Master Mei Lanfang. It is a harrowing and beautiful story about Xiang Yu, a once-powerful warlord whose ambitions were ruthlessly sabotaged during the Chu-Han Contention, the four-year period between the Qin and Han dynasties, and his beloved consort Yu Ji. Performed by a stellar cast which features Li Shengsu from the School of Mei, as Yu Ji, and Yu Kuizhi who plays the famed general Han Xin with his orotund voice and nuanced acting, this opera is sure to enchant audiences.
Armistice Between Generals is a famous moral fable of great cultural resonance throughout China, set during the country’s Warring States epoch and based on real historical accounts. Yu Kuizhi will star as the sagacious Zhuge Liang. This opera will be performed in its full-length version, which is rarely staged.
The Loss of Jieting, Empty City Stratagem and Executing Ma Su, which are usually staged as one work, The Trilogy of Zhuge Liang, form an important part of the traditional Peking opera repertoire. Adapted from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this evergreen classic is replete with drama and is famous for its singing segments. Su San Escorted to Trial is a sympathetic portrayal of a downtrodden prostitute. Li Shengsu plays Su San, whose grievances have long moved audiences. Despite their disparate themes, the four excerpts are coherently interwoven and pack a dramatic punch.