Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Embroidered robe helps bridge traditions

National Guoguang Opera Company and the Yokohama Noh Theatre were unable to completely fuse their very different theatrical forms, but three years of collaboration has resulted in a production that fully highlights the skills of the performers

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Liu Chia-hou, left, and Wen Yu-hang star in the National Guoguang Opera Company’s The Dream of an Embroidered Robe, which will be performed at the National Taichung Theater next weekend and The Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center in Taipei the weekend after next.

Photo Courtesy of National Guoguang Opera Company

The National Guoguang Opera Company (國立國光劇團) and the Yokohama Noh Theatre have both developed reputations for being willing to collaborate with artists from different fields while preserving their respective art forms.

Under director Wang An-chi (王安祈), Guoguang has adapted novelist Eileen Chang’s (張愛玲) The Golden Cangue (金鎖記) in 2006, collaborated with US theater director Robert Wilson on Orlando, based on the Virginia Woolf novel, and interpreted Shakespeare with 2012’s Cleopatra and Her Fools (艷后和她的小丑們), the latter two for the Taiwan International Festival of the Arts.

The Yokohama Noh Theatre, under director Masayuki Nakamura, has worked with Italian director and choreographer Luca Veggetti for last year’s Left-Right-Left a contemporary dance work with Noh music, as well as with New Tango composer and pianist Pablo Ziegler for a full-length concert.

So one can see why a collaboration between the Taipei-based Guoguang and the Yokohama theater might seem like a natural progression, especially as the opera company has been doing more Kun productions in recent years. Some have compared Beijing opera to Japan’s Kabuki theater and Kun to Noh theater.

Three years ago, a team from Yokohama came to Taipei to discuss a joint production, which was originally envisioned as a complete fusion of Kun and Noh. However, the traditions and dictates of the two art forms led to major headaches, and even some moments when giving up seemed like a good idea.

After spending about a year trying to create a fusion script, they realized that there was really no way to blend Kun with Noh because of Noh’s strict rules, so they decided to focus on the music as the platform for collaboration, particularly the samisen, for in Noh, the musicians and singers carry the storyline along.

Performance Notes

WHAT: The Dream of an Embroidered Robe

WHEN: Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 at 7:30pm and Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 at 2:30pm

WHERE: Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center’s Main Theater (臺灣戲曲中心大表演廳), 751 Wenlin Rd, Taipei City(台北士林區文林路751號).

ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$800 to NT$3,500, available at the box office, online at and at convenience store ticket kiosks

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE: Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 at 2:30pm at the National Taichung Theater (台中國家歌劇院) 101, Huilai Rd Sec 2, Taichung City (台中市惠來路二段101號). Tickets are NT$500 to NT$3,000; available at available at NTT box offices, online at and at convenience store ticket kiosks

Renowned samisen master Tokiwazu Mozibei was invited as musical director to help introduce the nagauta music, which is traditionally done by performers who sing and play the samisen, to audiences in Taiwan.

Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group (莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團) founder Wang Chia-ming (王嘉明), no stranger to combining Eastern and Western theater traditions, was brought on to direct the show.

The result, The Dream of an Embroidered Robe (繡襦夢), which opens at the National Taichung Theater on Saturday next week for two shows and then will be performed at Guoguang’s home base, the Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林), the following weekend, is a three-in-one production that offers audiences a sample of the two different traditions.

The first segment, or Act I, is the “Beating The Son” scene from the traditional Kun play The Story of an Embroidered Robe (繡襦記), featuring Wen Yu-hang (溫宇航) and Tang Wen-hua (唐文華).

The Ming Dynasty-era play tells of a Tang Dynasty scholar who visits Changan to take the imperial examination as his father wants, but meets a famous prostitute and falls in love with her. Forgetting the exam, he spends all his money at the brothel. Penniless, he is reduced to begging in the street.

When his father learns what happens, he goes to Changan to find his son and beats him, leaving him injured in the snow. The prostitute finds the son, covers him with her embroidered robe to keep him warm and takes him home, having decided to leave the brothel.

She encourages him to return to his studies and he eventually earns first place in the exam. His father later relents, accepts the prostitute as his son’s wife and they all live happily ever after.

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