Program Notes for
The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting)

A production presented by The Smithsonian Associates (TSA)

Saturday, May 22, 1999 at 7:00 PM
Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C.

  • Introduction & Demonstration of Chinese Kunqu Theater
  • "Interrupted Dream" (Yu Yaun Jing Meng)
  • "Pursuing the Dream" (Hsun Meng)

Written by Tang Xianzu (English supertitles taken from The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting), translated by Cyril Birch, The Indiana University Press, 1980.)

The Artists

Du Liniang:

Liang Guyin
Spring Fragrance: Angela Wu
Liu Meng-Mei: De-Zhang Wu

Flower Spirit:

Michael Zhang

Demonstration:

Qian Dong-Xia

 

Lead Musicians

Flutist:

Quian Hon-Ming
Percussionist: Ji Zhi-Liang

Special thanks to the following for their generous support:

  • The Han Shen Chinese Opera Institute, Virginia, for the scenery.
  • The Indiana University Press and Dr. Cyril Birch for the Engish translation of The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting), translated by Cyril Birch, 1980.


Synopsis

The Peony Pavilion is a poetic play written by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) during the Ming dynasty in 1598. The play consists of 55 scenes. Around a dozen major scenes are still consistently performed, but transitional scenes are rarely performed today. "The Interrupted Dream" (scene 10) and "Pursuing the Dream" (scene 12) are two major scenes frequently performed together.

The heroine of the play is a young lady named Du Liniang. Raised in a strict household, she is forbidden to leave her chambers without permission. One day, she disobeys her parents' orders and enters a garden, accompanied by her maid, Spring Fragrance. The spring flowers are in full bloom, and Du Liniang feels the mysterious beauty, joys and longing of nature, life and developing womanhood.

After returning to the house, Du Liniang falls asleep. She dreams that she was in the garden and met a young scholar. The two are united in true love under a plum tree. Henceforth, she  continues to think of her lover from the dream. She returns to the garden to pursue the dream but is unable to bring it back. She fallsl sick and after drawing a self-portrait, she dies of a broken heart. Eventually, the young man appears, brings Du Liniang back to life, and the couple are married.

A translation of the complete The Peony Pavilion by Cyril Birch is available at Indiana University Press, 601 N. Morton St., Bloomington, IN 47404-3797. Order phone no. (800) 842-6976.


Meet the Artists
 

Ms. Liang Guyin (Du Liniang) is a member of the Shanghai Kunju Troupe in China, specializing in female character roles. Ms. Liang is a national first-Class Kunqu theater actor certified by the Chinese Government. She is known in theatrical circles for her interpretive acting skills and creativity. Ms. Liang won the Plum Blossom Award at the Third Theatrical Festival in China. This is the highest honor recognized by the Chinese government in their field. This is Ms. Liangs's second appearance for the Smithsonian Associates.

Ms. Angela Wu (Spring Fragrance) is a graduate of the China Traditional Opera, specializing in the young female role (ch'ing-i) in the Beijing opera. While she was in China, Ms. Wu conducted a variety show, a medley of four plays designed to exhibit her multiple talents in singing, acting and acrobatic dance. She received excellent reviews for the performances.

Mr. Wu De-Zhang (Liu Meng Mei) is a graduate of the Shanghai Academy of Performing Arts, specializing in the young male role. Previously with the Shanghai Kunju Troupe, Mr. Wu has toured with the troupe in England, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong. He is recognized for his versatility in playing various role types in Kunqu peformances. Mr. Wu is a Resident Artist and the Director of the Kunqu Workskop of the Kunqu Society Inc., NY.

Michael Chang (Flower Spirit) is a graduate from China Traditional Opera Academy, specializing in the old male role (Loa-Shen) in Chinese Bejing opera. Mr. Chang displays his talent and versatility through his performances of characters that pose a challenge to the perfomer in singing and dance.

Quian Don-Xia, a graduate of the Jaingsu Provincial Kunqu Drama School, plays young female roles. Ms. Qian enjoys interpreting sophisticated roles with her delicate singing and graceful stylized movements.

Quian Hon-Ming, a former member and lead fluitist of the Jiangsu Kunju Institute, has accompanied Ms. Zhang Jiquing in numerous performances and recorded the "Tha Peony Paviillion" in China. In February 1999, he led a musical ensemble to accompany Ms. Hua Weiyi in the China Institutes' production of the The Peony Pavilion in New York. Mr. Quia lives in New York.

Jih Zhi-Liang graduated from the Jiangsu Provincial Drama School, where he majored in Kunqu music. In 1985, Mr. Jih joined the Jiangsu Kunju Institute and currently severs as a master drummer.