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Saturday, June 21, 2008
Cantonese Opera -vvz

As part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2008, the Wuchuan City Cantonese Opera Troupe (广东省吴川市粤剧团) was in town to perform for a few nights. I have never seen a Cantonese opera live and in its entirety before so I decided to attend one of their shows.

Buying the tickets was quite a surreal experience. Everyone in the queue was, on average, 20 years my senior. And they all spoke Cantonese. The Kreta Ayer People's Theatre (my first visit there as well) looked like it was stuck in the 80s. I felt so out of place.

I caught the show on Wednesday (they put up a different show everyday) called 巾帼奇英 (The Magnificent Heroine, something like that). I chose to watch this one because it features a Dao Ma Dan (刀马旦) (female warrior role), which I always thought is really cool.

The story is quite simple. During the Warring States period, the King of Zhao was pursued by enemies and saved by a girl (the protagonist) with exceptional fighting skills, whom he mistook for a fairy.

A month later, the powerful State of Qin organized some sort of military tournament where the loser State has to give up three cities (the States are coerced to take part, probably just an excuse for Qin to grab more land). The King of Zhao sent people to search for an able general to lead his armies and represent his State. If he wins, a high official post awaits. If the champion is female, the King will make her his queen.

The patriotic protagonist 贾无容 (Jia Wurong, name sounds like fake ugliness in Chinese) volunteered but disguised herself as an ugly woman to avoid marrying the King. Needless to say, she won the tournament and the superficial King refused to marry her. She married her childhood sweetheart in the end and the King regretted after he realized that she was the "fairy" he kept thinking of.

Despite the simplistic plot, the show was entertaining throughout its 3.5 hours length. There were some humorous scenes; I especially liked the part where the King complains in detail how each of 贾无容 facial features is ugly. The singing was great and fighting sequences spectacular. I didn't understand most of the singing (my Cantonese only good enough to make out the spoken portions. Here, I must give the gahmen some credit for this sad state of affairs) but fortunately there were subtitles.

For $20, this is a damn good deal. And no one stops me from taking pictures and videos too. Here are some of my better shots.

The main character 贾无容, excellently played by 刀马旦陈诗敏 Chen Shimin. Too bad the pictures I have of her doing the splits and one-leg stand didn't turn out too well.

Here, a materialistic bimbo responds to the call, hoping to become Queen, despite having no skills whatsoever.

贾无容 fights the grand marshall of the Zhao army to prove her worth.

贾无容 returns victorious. The generals of the other States stand in the background.

贾无容 reveals her true appearance after the wedding ceremony that the King himself presided over. He regrets it but it is too late.

贾无容 becomes the god-daughter of the Queen Dowager and sworn siblings with the King.

Here's a short clip of the fighting part, 破阵.

-- permalink --
Yiheng made
5:33 PM


General comment from my mother was that Cantonese opera troupes from Hong Kong cannot compare with those from mainland China. As such, you nvr chio my mother along lor... lol
By Anonymous wengyi, at 3:25 PM  

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