Local director seeking to marry ‘wuxia’ with opera

Staff Writer, with CNA

Sun, Jan 09, 2011 - Page 2

It might be difficult to associate Chinese wuxia (武俠), or martial arts, with Western opera, but one young local director wants to prove that such a combination can bring opera closer to today’s audiences.

Stage director Cheng Chih-wen (鄭智文), 30, is working with the Taipei Philharmonic Opera Studio on an opera titled The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Saber (倚天屠龍記), in which opera singers will sing famous arias written by Puccini, Wagner, Verdi and other renowned composers while wield ing traditional Chinese weapons and do martial arts movements.

Cheng said that through the marriage of Chinese martial arts with Western operatic music, he hopes local audiences will find it easier to approach opera, some of which dates back to the 16th century.

“In an era in which almost everything can be downloaded from the Internet, how do you lure audiences into the theater to enjoy a performance?” he asked, adding that “innovation is the key.”

Cheng said he was a big fan of the wuxia novels of martial arts and chivalry, especially those written by famed Chinese novelist Jin Yong (金庸) — the pen name of Louis Cha (查良鏞) — and that when he reads the stories, he always thinks about how to visualize the amazing wuxia movements on stage.

However, the visualization — be it on television or in movies — is never as vivid as the descriptions in the novels, he said, which led him to use the range of different voices of opera singers as a replacement for the fighting action.