Kun opera is regarded by many as the most venerable and influential form of Chinese opera, dating back at least to the 1500s. It has long existed in the shadow of its more showy descendent, Beijing opera, but is now making something of a comeback.
Kun was revealed to a wider audience as something beautiful and even erotic in April last year when Kenneth Pai's (
As tickets for that show were so hard to come by, it is no surprise that Peony Pavilion is being restaged, this time by the Taipei Chinese Orchestra (
Chang -- whose rendition of Du Liniang (
The TCO's staging is being billed as the "highlights edition," since it has compressed the 20 hours of the original into two parts (Pai's version was split into three parts), retaining the overall structure but seeking to appeal to contemporary audiences by focusing on the most famous scenes. This is a slight shift of emphasis from Pai's production, in which he said he wanted to get away from the highlight format and give audiences a glimpse of the opera's monumental structure.
Peony Pavilion is one of Chinese literature's great love stories, its status similar to the stories of Romeo and Juliet or Abelard and Heloise. It is an extended exposition on the theme of love in all its aspects, and indeed has been described as Chinese literature's "book of love." To see this work presented by one of the foremost Kun opera troupes under the artistic direction of one of the form's recognized masters is an opportunity not to be missed.
The revival of Kun's fortunes has seen the establishment in Taiwan of a number of local Kun groups. For those who simply want a quick taste of Kun, the Watermill Kun Opera Troupe (
The Jiangsu Provincial Kun Opera's presentation of Peony Pavilion will take place at the Zhong Shan Hall (