Thu, Feb 21, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Love & passion from east and west

While the National Theater is home this weekend to a visiting Chinese troupe performing classic kunqu tales adapted by Kenneth Pai, a Taiwanese version of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ will be performed at the National Concert Hall

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province will perform excerpts from three classic operas as part of Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai’s New Kunqu Classics Series at the National Theater in Taipei this weekend.

Photo courtesy of Hsu Pei-hung

Tales of passion, lust and love will be highlighted by rival performances of kun (kunqu, 崑曲) and Western opera at the National Theater and Concert Hall, as the 11th Taiwan International Festival of Arts (TIFA) enters its second weekend.

The Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province (蘇州崑劇院) has returned to Taipei to perform three kun classics adapted by Taiwanese novelist and kun aficionado Kenneth Pai (白先勇), while the National Symphony Orchestra (國家交響樂團) will perform a concert version of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, staged by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) and conducted by Lu Shao-chia (呂紹嘉).


Pan has been in love with kun since he saw his first production of the Peony Pavilion (牡丹亭) in Shanghai when he was nine years old.

He has been credited with reviving enthusiasm for kun in Taiwan — and China — thanks to his “youth versions” of some of its major operas, starting with the Peony Pavilion at the National Theater in 2004, followed five years later by The Jade Hairpin (玉簪記).

His adaptations, which use modern theater techniques while retaining traditional kun esthetics, have won popular and critical acclaim in Taiwan, around Asia and Europe.

Suzhou is considered the birthplace of kun, which originated in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty, so it is no surprise that Pan has repeatedly turned to the city’s most famous troupe to find performers for his New Kunqu Classics Series (白先勇經典崑曲新版系列), which opens tomorrow night.

For the series, Pan has reworked The White Silk Robe (白羅衫), The Jade Hairpin and The Story of Golden Lotus (潘金蓮) to make them more accessible to modern audiences.

The White Silk Robe opens the series at the National Theater tomorrow night. It is a tale of about the estrangement of a father and son, their sins and redemption, and features Yu Jiulin (俞玖林) and Tang Rong (唐榮) in the lead roles. The show runs about two hours and 20 minutes without intermission.

The Story of Golden Lotus, which will be performed on Saturday, is a tale of an extramarital love affair and a strong-willed woman determined to challenge the conventions of her feudal society, with Lu Jia (呂佳), Qu Binbin (屈斌斌) and Liu Chunlin (柳春林) in the lead roles. It runs two-and-a-half hours, with no intermission.

The Jade Hairpin, set for Sunday afternoon, is a long and complicated, but comedic tale of forbidden love between a young scholar and a Taoist nun, and stars Yu and Shen Fengying (沈豐英). It runs about 160 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

All three shows will be performed in Mandarin, with Chinese surtitles.


Italian is the language of love in Lin and Lu Shao-chia’s adaptation of Puccini’s melodrama about rebels, betrayal, murder and suicide, which premiered at the National Concert Hall on Dec. 31, 2002.

Lin not only shifted the setting of the story from Rome during Napolean’s invasion of Italy to modern-day Taipei, but used the traditional Beijing opera bare-bones “table and two chairs” format to create a contemporary concert version of Tosca.

Puccini’s version tells the story of an artist, Cavaradossi, his opera singer lover, Tosca and a duplicitous police chief, Scarpia, who lusts after Tosca. Lin’s version is about an artist, his pop star lover and a Wanhua gangland godfather determined to have the singer.

The role of Tosca will be sung by two Taiwanese sopranos who were so good in the NSO’s production of Puccini’s Il Trittico in July 2017: Hanying Tso- Petanaj (左涵瀛), who will appear tomorrow night and Sunday, and Lin Ling-hui (林玲慧), who will sing on Saturday.

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