Vancouver Cantonese Opera – Imperial Consort Yang Guifei Intoxicated 贵妃醉酒 Had a Dream of the Red Chamber 红楼梦 at Granville Island
The Vancouver Cantonese Opera troupe 燕鳳鳴粵劇團 featuring an almost all-female cast performed a number of Peking Opera acts at the Ron Basford Park in Granville Island on July 08, 2012 as part of the All Over the Map, a series of music and dance performances from around the world as presented by New Works of Vancouver BC.
Dream of The Red Chamber 红楼梦 is one of the most famous Chinese novels written by Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹 that saw its first printed publication in 1791. The sad scene depicted in the video is the Flower Burial Swan Song 葬花吟.
VIDEO – Flower Burial in Red Chamber Dream 红楼梦葬花吟
The Drunken Beauty or Guifei Intoxicated贵妃醉酒 is a famous Peking Opera that tells the story of Yang who throws a banquet for Emperor Xuanzong only to discover that he has gone off to another concubine. Greatly disappointed, Yang gets drunk herself instead.
VIDEO – Imperial Consort Yang Intoxicated 贵妃醉酒
According to legend, Imperial Consort Yang Guifei 杨贵妃 born almost 1400 years ago was one of China’s most beautiful women and was the beloved concubine of Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 of the Great Tang Dynasty. Yang was strangled to death at the age of 37 at the order of Xuanzong as the people demanded her death for being suspected of associated with a rebellion that Yang’s cousin was involved in at the time.
The Drunken Beauty was also one of the most favorite acts of Mei Lan Fong 梅兰芳, China’s greatest opera performer.
Mei, a man, was much appreciated for playing female roles in his time. He also single-handedly brought the art of Beijing Opera to the world stage.
In the 1930s, Mei Lan Fong toured Europe and America and was befriended by many Hollywood greats including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. German playwright Bertold Brecht was so taken by Mei’s work that Brecht later incorporated some of Beijing Opera’s techniques into his own work.
Traditionally, the Beijing Opera was an all-men troupe with male actors taking on cross-dressing female roles. Only boys were allowed entry to the academy and tutored under a very strict training system to become opera performers. But time has certainly changed. Since at least the 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution, different female roles of the Beijing Opera were routinely performed by female actors in many highly-charged political plays.
Interestingly, the Vancouver Cantonese Opera, a non-profit organization established in 2000, remains an overwhelmingly all-female troupe today.
Ron Basford Park, Granville Island, Vancouver BC
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