A musical drama by Taiwan’s famed Ju Percussion Group was lauded in Shanghai on Saturday for its innovative combination of percussion music and Peking opera.
The 90-minute performance at the Shanghai Culture Square was received by a cheering crowd, who had flocked the square to see the show.
The piece, MuLan (木蘭), tells the story of Hua Mulan (花木蘭), a legendary Chinese figure who disguised herself as a man to fight in wars in the place of her elderly father and dramatizes her return from the battlefield a decade later.
The drama, launched in May, is a collaboration between Ju Percussion Group and Lee Shiao-pin (李小平), a theater director with the GuoGuang Opera Company.
The piece blends elements from Eastern and Western cultures, as well as modern and traditional elements of art. It breaks away from traditional percussion music and Peking opera performances, with percussionists doubling as actors and instruments becoming props.
Different instruments are also used to express Mulan’s mood at different stages of her life.
For example, Chinese bass drums are used to represent the tension in battle scenes, while bowls and pots are used to play brisk music in a scene where Mulan recalls her childhood.
Two percussionists perform a melancholic piece on a marimba — a type of xylophone — to mourn the cruelty of war. The marimba is later used as a prop to symbolize a coffin.
Song Xun from China said he thought MuLan was very creative in its musical arrangement, adding that a scene in which actors used tap dance to mimic the trampling of horses’ hooves impressed him.
Thirty-seven year-old Liu Rui, also from China, said she enjoyed the combination of percussion music and drama, which made her feel more involved in the performance.
Mulan’s character is played by two performers — Peking opera performer Chu Sheng-li (朱勝麗) and Wu Pei-ching (吳珮菁), a xylophone player and principal percussionist at the Ju Percussion Group.
The company has been performing MuLan since last month with shows in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. It was to be staged in Shanghai again yesterday and in Xiamen on Wednesday.
Ju Percussion Group, founded in 1986 by Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶), was the nation’s first professional percussion ensemble.
Since its founding, it has staged more than 2,000 shows in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia, and composed more than 150 original pieces of music.