Kunqu Performance Saturday June 18, 2011  2:00 pm
Meyer Auditorium, Freer and Sackler Galleries
1100 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.


The Shangai Kunju Troupe

performs four scenes from the Kunqu Classic

The Palace of Eternal Youth
【長生殿】

Scene 2: The Pledge of Love《Dinqing 定情》
Scene 19: Complaints in the Pavilion《Xuge 絮閣》
Scene 24: Startled by the Rebellion《Jingbian 驚變》
Scene 25: Jade Burial《Maiyu 埋玉》

This production is co-sponsored with the Freer and Sackler Galleries with generous support from Ms. Qian Yi, Ms. Anna Wu, Ms. Chung-ho Frankel and the Kunqu Society, Inc., New York. WKS also gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David Rolston, University of Michigan, for help with libretto translations and plot synopses.

Cast Musicians Synopsis

Meet the Artists

Production Staff  

Cast

Emperor Zuanzong:

Li An  黎安

Consort Yang (scenes 2 & 25): Shen Yili  沈昳麗

Consort Yang (scene 19):

Qian Yi * 錢熠

Consort Yang (scene 24):

Yu Bin  余彬

Yongxin: Fan Yili  范毅俐

Niannu:

Leng Bingbing  冷冰冰
Gao Lishi:

Hu Gang 胡剛

Consort Mei:

Gu Haohao  谷好好

Yang Guozhong:

Wu Shuang 吴雙

Chen Yuan Li: Miao Bin 缪斌

Musicians

Kunqu Flute (Dizi):

Qian Yin  钱寅
  Yang Ziyin  楊子銀
Drum Master: Lin Feng  林峰
Drum/Cymbal: Gao Jun 高均
Sheng: Weng Weiwei  翁巍巍
Er Hu: Guo Jingqiang * 郭景強
Big Gong:: Meng Qiaogen 孟巧根
Small Gong: Zhang Guoqiang  张国强

Troupe Production Team

Director: Shi Jian  史建
Secretary: Jiao Limin 焦俐敏
Deputy Director: Gu Haohao 谷好好
Production Manager: Lin Yan  林 岩
Backstage Manager: Xu Hongqing 徐洪青
Make-up: Fan Yili  范毅俐

WKS Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang  張冬青
Co-producer: Anna Wu   陳安娜
Make-up: Yang Guiyin    楊桂英
Dresser:: Yang Xiaoling   楊孝玲
Program Brochure: Charles Wilson
Surtitles: Dong-Shin Chang  張東炘
Photography: Cindy Rodney
Video Camera: Charles Wilson

* Guest U.S. Artist

Synopsis

The Palace of Eternal Youth (Chang Sheng Dian) is a fifty-scene play written by Hong Sheng (洪昇) (1605-1704) at the close of the seventeenth century. The author worked closely with a music master to ensure a perfect fit of his lyrics with the melody of the arias, and it is generally regarded by scholars of kunqu as the greatest play written specifically for performance in the kunqu style. The play is about one of the most famous love stories in Chinese history, the doomed love affair between Emperor Xuanzong (712–755 A.D.) of the Tang dynasty and his favorite imperial consort, Yang Yuhuan, also known by her court title, Precious Consort Yang (Yang Guifei). Although critical of the failings of the two lovers, the play also exhibits great sympathy for them and is one of the strongest affirmations of love in Chinese literature.

The entire play would take several days to perform, so only selected scenes are typically performed at any one sitting. In this performance, the truope performs four scenes from the first half of the play.

“Pledge of Love” is the second scene of the play. The scene begins with entrance of Emperor Xuanzong, extolling the beauty of Yang Yuhan, a maid in the royal palace, whom he has just granted the title of Imperial Consort. He orders Consort Yang to be brought to him, and they feast and enjoy the moon from the courtyard. Afterwards they leave for the Western Palace, where he will spend the night with her. When they are alone, he gives her a gold hairpin containing a male and female phoenix and a jewel-encrusted box as a pledge for his love.

In later scenes, Emperor Xuanzong and Consort Yang fall deeply in love. However, Yang becomes very jealous of his attention to any other woman. Eventually, she is temporarily expelled from the palace following a jealous outburst after Xuanzong bestows his favor on her sister. When she returns, she wins back Xuanzong by performing a dance to music that she heard in a dream-visit to the moon.

“Complaints in the Pavilion” is the nineteenth scene of the play. It is the break of dawn and Eunuch Gao Li Shi is guarding the door of the Emerald Pavilion, where the emperor is sleeping. During the night Xuanzong had secretly sent for Consort Mei, a former favorite, with strict orders that Consort Yang not be told. Suddenly Consort Yang appears and asks for the whereabouts of the emperor. When Consort Yang asks to enter, Gao tells her that the emperor is not well. She is not deceived and demands to be let in. Consort Mei is quickly hidden behind a curtain and spirited away from the pavilion. When Consort Yang enters, the emperor pretends to be asleep, but she suggests that the emperor's illness is really love sickness for his former love, Consort Mei. Just as Xuanzong is assuring her that he has no interest in Consort Mei, Consort Yang discovers a lady's slipper and trinket. To save the emperor from appearing inconstant to his true love (Consort Mei), Yang declares that she must leave the palace. But when she tries to return his jewel box and hairpin, Xuanzong begs her forgiveness and takes her back to the Western Palace where they reunite in love.

As time passes, Xuanzong has increasingly devoted himself to his love-making with Consort Yang, becoming lax in attending to affairs of state. Unknown to him, rebellion is brewing among his troops on the border.

“Startled by the Rebellion", the twenty-fourth scene, is the turning point of the play. It essentially consists of two scenes. In the first part, popularly called "The Intimate Banquet" (Xiaoyan), Emperor Xuanzong enters with Consort Yang, holding hands and strolling through the garden, entranced in each other's gaze. It is early autumn and the flowers of the imperial garden are blooming. The emperor orders some simple dishes and asks Consort Yang to sing a new song using the lyrics of the famous and talented poet Li Bai. As they celebrate the occasion and each other, Consort Yang becomes intoxicated, which makes her appear even more lovely. The emperor orders her maids to take her back to her quarters.

The title of the episode refers to the events of the second part of the scene. As soon as Consort Yang is led away, Xuanzong’s world is turned upside down. The prime minister (a cousin of Consort Yang) enters and reports that one of the emperor's generals, An Lushan, has rebelled against the throne and has broken through the pass guarding the approach to the capital. The feckless emperor can do nothing but accept the advice of his prime minister to abandon the capital and flee to Chengdu.

“Jade Burial” is the next scene of the play. The emperor and Consort Yang are on their way to safety in Sichuan, but the accompanying troops claim that An Lushan’s rebellion is all the fault of the Prime Minister, Yang Guozhong. When Xuanzong learns that the troops have executed the prime minister, he realizes that he has no choice but to pardon their offense and continue on the journey. However, the troops immediately demand the execution of Consort Yang as well (to break up the power of the Yang family). Xuanzong tries to resist, but Consort Yang realizes that her death is the only way to prevent a mutiny and save the emperor. She offers to commit suicide and gives the hairpin and jewel box to Eunuch Gao to be buried with her. She thanks the emperor for his kindness and promises that her spirit will follow him forever.

Later in the play the two lovers are united again in the afterlife.


Meet the Artists

The Shanghai Kunqu Troupe is a state-sponsored performing troupe, dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of traditional Chinese kunqu theater. Since its founding in 1978 by Yu Zhenfei, many of its leading performers have received wide public acclaim and official national recognition. The touring troupe includes six of their First Class Performers: Gu Hao Hao, Shen Yili, Yu Bin, Wu Shuang, Miao Bin, Li An. Two First Class Musicians are also among the touring group: Qian Yin and Lin Feng. Ms. Gu Haohao was recently awarded the prestigious Plum Blossom Award.

The troupe maintains a repertoire of over three hundred selected scenes and sixty full length plays, including The Palace of Eternal Youth, The Jade Hairpin, The Peony Pavilion, Fifteen Strings of Cash, Pan Jinlian, The Legend of the White Snake, and The Song of a Lute. In addition to their regular performances within China, the troupe has toured in the United Stated., Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Qian Yi began her study of classical kunqu at the Shanghai Drama School at the age of ten. Later, as a member of the Shanghai Kunju Company, she became known for her leading roles in The Legend of the White Snake, The Water Margin, and other classical kunqu repertoire. In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s epic nineteen-hour production of The Peony Pavilion, which played at major international festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Since coming to the U.S., Ms. Qian has continued to work in classical Chinese theater, while also starring in numerous adaptations of Chinese opera in the context of western theater, including Ghost Lovers (Spoleto USA), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center), and Snow in June (American Repertory Theater). In 2008, Qian Yi made her debut in western opera, singing a leading role in the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter's Daughter., the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Guo Jingqiang is a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he studied erhu with Wei Zhongle, Lu Xiutong, and Chen Junying. He has been a member of the Shanghai Orchestra, the Shanghai Philharmonic, and the Shanghai Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra. His tours of Japan and Singapore have won him wide acclaim. Mr. Guo is an erhu soloist and conductor for the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York.