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Kunqu Opera

Kunqu Opera

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On May 18th, 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's array of 'representatives of oral and intangible heritage of humanity', Chinese Kun opera was among the list of 19 masterpieces. It was the first time ever that China was among the 19 chosen countries to receive such an outstanding honor. Kun Opera was selected among 19 masterpieces of intangible cultural heritage by UNSECO was for it's being a classic of Chinese traditional performing arts. The dance of Kun Opera is beautiful and vivid; it's music melodious. It is for these reasons that Kun Opera has become an enchantment for Chinese in addition to ancient poetries and calligraphy. Kun Opera, a 600-year-old art, originated in Kun-Shang Chiang-Su province. On a simple stage, Kun opera combines the singing, dance, poetry and drama to present the most complex and sophisticated emotion imagery. Kun Opera has reached the heights of opera performance and has become a classic of traditional Chinese performing art. As a result, many Chinese local dramas, including Chin opera, Pu opera, Hsian opera, Chuang opera, Gan opera, Guei Opera, Yuei opera, Min opera, and so on, have drawn from Kun opera for their own development. Kun Opera is therefore recognized as 'the ancestor of opera' and 'the master of opera'. As a treasure in art of traditional opera, it is quite appropriate to say that, Kun opera is a pure and elegant 'orchid' blooming in the garden of opera. Kun opera, one of the oldest forms of opera in China, not only inherits the artistic literary grace and musical legacy from Tang Dynasty, Sung Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, but also serves as many local opera's origin. With the beautiful Tang poetry, Sung Ci and Yuan Qu as the essential elements, Kun Opera's written language is elegant and gorgeous. The so-called 'every sound is a song; every movement, a dance', meaning it's story is narrative and lyrical, it's movement exquisite; it's singing and dancing are harmoniously combined. In addition, the various musical layouts of Kun Opera enrich the expressive skills of the opera to a great extent. The clear and gentle flute serves as the primary instrument for the Kun Opera. With 'the xiao-gong tune' as the basic tune, and sheng (free-reed mouth-organ, xiao (Chinese end-blown flute, suo-na (Chinese member of the Asian Shawm family, san-xian (Chinese long lute) and pipa (Chinese lute) served as the accompanied instruments, which also include several percussion instruments, it's musical accompaniment is therefore all the more perfect and the band organization more complete. Furthermore, Kun opera also excels itself with the employment of zeng-ban and the delicate utilization of sound, temperament and melodious variation in rhythms. Such a combination helps to render the graceful and beautiful Kun-Shang tone, leading it to become the representative of a mature development of Chinese opera. Many scripts of Kun opera, including 'the Peony Pavilion', 'the Palace of Eternal Youth', 'The Purple Hairpin', and 'The Peach Blossom Fan', are outstanding works of classical drama literature. Drawing on rich literary tradition from Tang poetry, Sung Tzi and Yuan Chu, the Kun opera has laid a solid cultural foundation for it's further development. The Peony Pavilion The Peony Pavilion is a well-known work both in the history of Chinese literature and opera. The author Tang Xian-zu (1550-1610) was born in the Ming Dynasty and his talent was unique among his contemporaries. The story in 'the Peony Pavilion' began with the main female character Du Li-nian walking in the garden and thereafter beginning to long for love. As a daughter of Du Bao, a magistrate of Nan-An, Li-Nian dreamed about meeting a scholar named Liu Mon-mei. She felt for Liu because of the dream, yet was distressed about not being able to meet Liu again in her dreams. She lived miserably for thinking of Liu all the time and later on died of a broken-heart. There years after her death, scholar Liu Meng-mei was on his way to Lin-An to take an imperial examination, he passed through Du Li-Nian's cemetery, picking up a self-portrait of Li-Nian's, encountered her spirit, then further digging up her tomb allowing Li-Nian to resurrect for her love of Liu. It is to say that Peony Pavilion is a classic of opera that is renowned for it's romanticism. The Purple Hairpin By obtaining materials from Tang Legend (Chuang-Chi), the Purple Hairpin is a typical love-story between able men and beautiful ladies. As a gifted man of letters, Li Yi went to participate in a lantern festival and took a letter with him seeking to look for Huo Xiao-yu. On the way of this special journey, Li met magistrate Lu and his daughter. Upon seeing Li's handsomeness, Lu Yan-zhen, as was Lu's fifth daughter, fell for him immediately and dropped a hint to her father to have Li married to her and to live in Lu's house. However, Li went on traveling to Sheng-ye mill, picking up a purple hairpin on the way by knowing that the hairpin belonged to Huo Xiao-yu. Right after the hairpin was given back to it's owner, Li and Huo married to each other. Afterwards, Lee passed as the number one scholar in the imperial examination. Magistrate Lu demanded that all the newly passed scholars should all come to his house to visit him; however, Li didn't go for it. Lu then came up with an excuse to relegate Lee as a military staff officer in a remote area. Three years later, Li returned to the capital and was forced by magistrate Lu to get married to his daughter Lu Yan-zheng. Upon hearing this, Huo Xiao-yu was heart-stricken and went to a Buddhist temple to express her grievance. At that time a man dressed in yellow clothes presented on the spot was able to understand her anxiety and worry; he then expressed the most sincere willingness of his to help. In the end, the couple was able to understand and support each other and lived happily together thereafter. The Palace of Eternal Youth The Palace of Eternal Youth and the Peach Blossom Fan are recognized as the finale works of Ming-Ching legend. Hong Sheng (1645-1704), the author of the Palace of Eternal Youth, was born in a family of governmental officials. He grew up in a family surrounded with a climate of literature, and was therefore prominent both in poetry and prose. The Palace of Eternal Youth was based on the tragic love story of Tang Emperor Li Long-jig and his concubine Yang Yu-huan, one of the most inspiring beauties in Chinese history. However, the layouts of the opera did not confine itself to the simple love-story; instead, Hong situated the story in a broad political and societal context to present broader and serious issues behind the story. By linking the love story of Tang emperor Li and his concubine Yang with historical event such as "the An Shih Rebellion" and situating the whole story in a broader context of the rise and fall of Tang Dynasty, Hong Sheng was able to write a magnificent opera consisting of intertwined historical events and love stories. Thus, the Eternal Youth is a love story in depicting a much broader perspective on the rise and fall of Tang Dynasty. Such an expressive skill certainly has a lot to do with Hong Sheng's living in a society where he bore the witness of the huge dynastic changes of Ming and Ching and the reality of social unrest. As a dramatist, Hong Sheng tried to record historical changes and lessons by using complicated presenting skills in this special opera. The Peach Blossom Fan As one of the most important classic repertory pieces of Kun Opera, the Peach Blossom Fan was on the list of the four most famous Chinese classical operas. Kong Shang-ren adopted the love-story between literati Ho Fang-yu and famous geisha Li Xiang-jun as the lead of the opera, and intermingled joy and sorrow of life to express one's complicated feeling toward the rise and fall of a nation. Through laying out a blood-soiled fan on it's painted peach blossom, Kong depicted the rise and fall of the South Ming Dynasty and the complete collapse of the Ming Dynasty. Such a remarkable achievement in expressive skill has made the Peach Blossom Fan as the most influential historical play. The renowned critic on Chinese opera Wang Kuo-wei once pointed out, in depicting the characters, the Peach Blossom Fan is a matchless masterpiece. The show will be made alive and passed on by characters The beauty of the affection of the Kun opera mostly lies in the singing between sheng and tan. Sheng (personated male character), tan (personated female character), jing (painted-face character), mo, and zhou (clown) are well-known characters of Chinese traditional operas. Sheng and tan are ranked on top of all the characters; sheng is mainly referring to the personated young man, and tan a female main character; she is the most affectionate character on stage. If the performers intend to make the characters alive on stage, their abilities of imagination and creativity are certainly the most critical. In another words, the performers need to place themselves in others' positions to understand and fathom the emotion and thoughts of the characters in the drama before they can perform. The so-called "the show will be made alive and passed on by characters" is indeed where the real beauty of Kun opera is. Gong In-lei A national top-rank performer of Jiang-Su Kun Opera Troupe, graduated from Kun Opera Division of the College of drama of Jiang-Su Province, Gong In-Lei was a pupil of Zhang Xin, Zhang Ji-qing and Hu Jin-fang, specialized in qui-men tan and sheng tan. He had taken on some major roles and leading characters in many big plays, such as Du Li-niang in the Peony Pavilion. He received the award of "Orchid Outstanding Performance Award" in the first interchanging performance of Chinese young Kun opera performers, the first prize of 'the Operatic Circle's Gardeners' in 2004, and golden award of the second Hong Mei Award Opera Competition. He visited Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan before. Qian Zhen-Rong As a national top-rank performer of Kun Opera Troupe of Chiang-Su province, Qian specialized in xiao sheng. He graduated from Kun Opera Division of College of Drama of Jiang-Su province. He was a student of Zhou Zhuang-yin, Gao Ji-rong, and Shih Xiao-mei. His stage appearance is charming, and acting refined yet natural. He had acted as Tang Emperor in "the Eternal Youth" and Liu Meng-mei in 'the Peony Pavilion'. He received the "Orchid Outstanding Performance Award" in the first interchanging performance of Chinese young Kun opera performers, and the golden award of Hong Mei Award Opera Competition. He had also traveled to some Asian countries and places to perform, including Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and so on. Ke Quin He is a national top-ranked performer of Kun Opera Troupe of Jiang-Su province; specializes in wu sheng (cavalier) and lao sheng (personated old man). He graduated from School of Drama of Jiang-su province. He was a student of Zhang Jin-long, Hou Xiao-kuei and Kun opera's "Zhuang" generation Zhou Zhuang-yin and Bao Zhuang-duo. In 1993, he learned from another Kun opera's "Zhuang" generation Zheng Zhuang-jian. He had received several award as a Kun opera performer, including the first prize winner of the 22nd "Plum Blossom Award" of opera; the 11th "Refined and magnificent Performance Award", the best award of Orchid performance of Kun opera issued by Division of Culture of China, award of outstanding performance in "Chinese Kun Opera Festival", the first prize winner of the best performers in the contest of drama performers of Jiang-Su Province. He had also received an honorable title as an artist with "outstanding talent and virtue" of Jiang-Su province and "Medal of May 1st Labor" of Jiang-Su province. He is acting as the premier of Kun Opera Yuan of Jiang-Su province. About Wang Sen-di, the Producer, Wang Sen-di is a graduate of the National Taiwan University of Arts. Intensely devoted to popularizing classical Chinese music, Wang has produced several album collections including \'Gu-zheng Melody - Praising and Reciting in the Name of Buddha\', \'Buddhist melody played by Guzheng series\', \'Crystal music series\' and \'Solar Music series\', all of which are renowned worldwide. He works enthusiastically collecting and recording classical Chinese music as well as teaching classical Chinese music in a number of schools. About Wu Judy Chin-tai, the Producer Wu Judy Chin-tai, Director of International Music production at Wind Music, is also a music producer and composer. She has won Golden Melody Awards for "My Ocean" (Best Music Producer, 2001) and "Colors of Childhood" (Best Children's Album, 2004). In 2006 she was nominated in the Best Producer category for "Holding Ina's Hand - the beauty of Tabalong Music", an album which won Best National Folk Album and Best Vocal Album for the Formosa Aboriginal Song and Dance Troupe. After studying music in the US, Wu returned to Taiwan and has worked at Wind Music ever since. Involved in producing numerous albums related to the cultures and natural scenes of Taiwan, she has recently devoted her time to focusing on new Folk songs as well as on various unique instruments. She produced a series of albums of Ocarina performances and created a trend that has motivated over a million people in Taiwan to learn this instrument. In 2006 the album "Over the Way", produced for Huang Europa, garnered widespread public recognition and positive feedback for it's innovate approach to original folk music. About Kavichandran Alexander, the Recording Engineer: Kavichandran Alexander, a Tamil from Ceylon with broad western education, who has great interest in preserving genuine ethnic music, tries to overcome recording difficulties while keeping the original quality of the music intact by using double-tract recordings. He was the winner of the World Music Award at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards. In \'The Absolute Sound\' his products are described as \'the best we are pursuing.\' For the recordings of Solar Music series, he chose an old church in Northern California for it's acoustic richness. Always sticking to his beliefs, Kavi established a very popular record company of his own-Waterlily Acoustics. In order to capture and show the magic of music to people, he insists on analogy techniques and vacuum tubes electronics for music recording. The high standard he demands in producing and recording makes him in his field and has won him praise from the Western world.


Title: Kunqu Opera
Genre: International
Release Date: 19/08/2008
Label: CD Baby
Media Format: CD
UPC: 600568102620
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