One of the greatest characteristics of the arts during the 1990s has been fusion of different media and different traditions. Boundaries have come tumbling down and artists who refuse to be pigeonholed have abounded.
At the same time, there has also been a return to originals, especially in the area of music, with extensive research on original instruments and scores of the Baroque period revealing new levels in the western musical tradition.
One would think that these trends would be irreconcilable opposites as one promotes integration of forms and the other stresses cultural distinctiveness. But proving there is compatibility is one of the most innovative theatrical experiments of the last few years,
The idea was born when the artistic director of La Peniche Opera, Mireille Larroche was exposed to the work of The Han-Tang Yuefu Ensemble of Taiwan. The latter group had been established in 1983 by Chen Mei-O to train artists in the performance of nankuan music. The group is marked by emphasis on research and on re-creation of the highly stylized performances of ancient times.
According to Larroche, the thing that struck her most about the li-yuan opera, a style that emerged in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), performed by the Han-Tang Yuefu Ensemble was its closeness to the renaissance tradition of courtly opera. "They spoke of love, of women abandoned, of lovers separated recalling our courtly music by Lambert or by de Boesset!" she said. "If the aesthetics appear distant, the histories and the techniques used are very close and demonstrate many points of convergence. These are particularly rich in lessons."
Larroche emphasized that in "an increasingly homogeneous world, the coming together of La Peniche Opera and The Han-Tang Yuefu Ensemble was particularly significant."
Serina Chen, the event organizer, said "Le Jardin des Delices was at once a very traditional work and a very experimental one." She pointed out that although much cross-cultural and fusion performances had appeared in recent years, these tended to be in the realm of avant-garde. "It is very unusual to find such collaboration in traditional arts especially in performance traditions with such long histories."
"In a world that is being inundated with American culture, the dialog between these two groups, which each had their own unique tradition, using non-linguistic means of communication, was very special," Larroche said.
The process by which the work came into being, a journey of discovery between artists who admired each other's work, is mirrored in the story itself. The core of
The story of how it came to be in the keeping of the university a story of piracy and rescue forms the basis for the French part of the performance. The Han-Tang Yuefu Ensemble performs the story of "Chen San and Wu Niang." No change was made to the li-yuan opera on Larroche's insistence, which she thought already "quite perfect."
The Baroque section was written round the li-yuan opera with the help of Philippe Beaussant, the founder of Ensemble de la Chapelle Royale, a pioneer in the popularization of Baroque music. According to Larroche, the greatest challenge in creating
It is this lack of compromise in relation to preserving the "original" performance that is at the heart of this piece of experimental theater. For the audience it is a discovery of how two distinct cultural traditions actually have a lot in common, despite being separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years.
Le Jardin des Delices
The Han-Tang Yuefu Ensemble and La Peniche Opera of Paris
Today, tomorrow; 7:30pm
Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, 505 Jenai Rd., Sec. 4; tel 2758-8008 ext. 207.
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