Recital of Chinese Opera

Performing Arts - Music | February 22 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Peng Xu, Center for Chinese Studies postdoctoral fellow, 2016-2017

 Center for Chinese Studies (CCS), Institute of East Asian Studies

《彈詞》 "The Ballad"
A Performance from Chinese opera

This famous excerpt from the poet Hong Sheng’s (1645-1704) southern drama Palace of Lasting Life (1688) consists of ten solos sung by the character Li Guinian, a former leading musician from the Pear Garden Academy at the glorious Tang (685-762) court, now a performer reduced to singing popular ballads in the marketplace after the An Lushan Rebellion.

In “The Ballad,” the 38th scene of Hong Sheng’s play, Li Guinian narrates the tragic love story of Emperor of the Tang and his most favored consort, Lady Yang Yuhuan (719-756). Among the audience this day is a young admirer of Lady Yang’s composition “Rainbow Skirts.”

In the 11th scene of the play, Lady Yang learns the piece of music during a dream visit to the moon. She transcribes it from memory when she awakens and teaches it to Li and the musicians of the Pear Garden.

Li Guinian’s last solo in “The Ballad” portrays the two refugees’ bittersweet reunion and foresees that “Rainbow Skirts” is to be passed down to future generations. This ending may be self-referential: Li Guinian’s solos turned out to have enjoyed great popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and are still deemed as a central piece in the repertory of Chinese opera today.

Cast and Crew:

Peng Xu: Singer
Daniel C.F. Chan: Flute
TaI-Yen Pao: Drum
Lindy Li Mark: Host

Peng Xu (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2014) is an assistant professor of premodern Chinese literature and culture at Swarthmore College. She is working on her book manuscript as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a B.A. in traditional bibliography and M.A. in classical Chinese literature from Peking University. In addition to her scholarly focus on premodern Chinese drama and theater, Dr. Xu was trained by a master of Peking opera in the vocal style known as the “Old Tan, New Tan” popular in the early twentieth century. At the same time, she studied with great amateur artists of kunqu opera in the Beijing Kunqu Learned Society. Her own singing style manifests significant connections between the two heritages of vocal music. Since 2010, she has taught undergraduate classes in Chinese opera and performing arts and has traveled to deliver lecture-demonstrations and interactive workshops at American colleges and universities.

 ccs@berkeley.edu, 510-643-6321