Cao Yu’s Thunderstorm, written in 1933 when he was just 23 while studying western theatre and arts at Qinghua University, was the first of his eight plays. Set in the feudal society of China in the 1920s, the tragedy follows the complicated love entanglements in (and within) the Zhou family. Thunderstorm made Cao’s name by spotlighting incest and premarital pregnancy, challenged the conservative male-dominated society of the time, while reflecting the desire for societal change that had grown up during the revolutionary movements of post-WW1 China. The play has been adapted into six films, including Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). It was probably inevitable that it would one day be adapted for dance.
2019 has been a standout year for Chinese soprano He Hui: the debut of three new roles; a successful run at the Met, including her debut Met Live in HD performance in Madama Butterfly and her 15th consecutive year (a first for a soprano) of singing at the Arena di Verona. And this weekend, He comes full circle as she returns to the Shanghai Grand Theatre, where she made her operatic debut in 1998, to perform Turandot, the Chinese princess of Puccini’s opera of the same name.
If there is any work that typifies “Viennese operetta”—waltzes, romantic comedy, catchy tunes and a certain silliness—it is Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow.
“Prima la musica” (“The music comes first”) once said opera composer Antonio Salieri (at least in the title to one of his operas). Perhaps as a consequence, opera has provided, once the words are dispensed with, other composers with marvelous opportunities for transcriptions and adaptions.
Lawrence Olivier Award-winning Bangladeshi-English choreographer Akram Khan brought his latest—and last—solo dance production Xenos to Hong Kong on 15 and 16 November. Meaning “stranger” in Greek, Xenos—commissioned by the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary—has haunted global audiences by evoking war images through dance.
Chinese soprano He Hui made her Metropolitan Opera “Live in HD” debut on 9 November in the lead role in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This might not be quite the first time a Chinese singer has the lead in one of these international broadcasts—but then again, it might be—but it is still an extremely rare occurrence and worthy of note.
In Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s 1733 comic opera La Serva Padrona (“The Maid Made Mistress”), a maid sets her sights on her boss, and through a combination of flirtatious behavior and well-meant duplicity, convinces him that he has really loved her all along. The work is small and intimate with a deceptive simplicity that belies the sophistication of the music, allowing a fusion between comic theatre and comic opera.