Monday, September 21, 2009

Beijing Opera performance: "锁麟囊 " (Suǒlínnáng)

Suǒlínnáng does not have an exact translation, it is actually a woven bag traditionally given to any bride to have a son (good luck), depending on the wealth of the family of the bride is the beauty and luxury of her Suǒlínnáng.

The opera was created in the 40s of last century by the playwright Ouhong Weng, and was first released in Shanghai, the Beijing’s premier was a year later at Chang'An Theatre. This is not an opera of anthology but it is staged quite often because, apparently, it was made for the showcasing of the singer who plays the main character, exposing her in a series of vocal acrobacies in its arias. Unlike most known operas Suǒlínnáng has no parts of fighting or acrobatics, but it makes use of comic characters (a maid is played by a man, for example) and use of great and complicated arias.

The story is very simple: Xianling is the only daughter from a very rich family, arrogant, refuses to accept the Suǒlínnáng her mother has given to her; in a walk before her wedding finds another bride who is very poor, Xianling gave to that young girl the luxurious Suǒlínnáng. As a result (or so it appears to be the result of) to have given the Suǒlínnáng Xialing has a daughter who later gets lost during a storm. Years later Xianling, completely in disgrace, finds his daughter who had been adopted by that poor bride who she had given the Suǒlínnáng. It comes the recognition of all the characters and there's a happy ending.

I saw this Opera at Chang'An Theatre in Beijing and the Xianling character was played by a very famous singer in China, Chíxiǎoqiū, who really has a phenomenal voice. The actress and singer is no longer young to make a young lady character but as in all Chinese drama that is not an important matter, theatrical codes are not measured here as in our Western realism.

As the value of the Opera is Xianling’s arias I thought it was best to share some of thaose scenes, plus a bonus song Chixiaoqiu gave us after the performance. Enjoy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Times of changes... and the pleasure of reading.

Times of changes are now in my life, too much work and little silence (you will know about it in some days). What can I do when there is no silence, there is little time of calm and my mind is full of worries about present and future? My response to that... Reading.

I found in a second hand bookshop a delicious book (yes, question of taste), the 1988-edition* of "Stanislavski'. A Biography." by Jean Benedetti, and I'm more than delighted.

Jean Bendetti is the most important researcher of the Moscow Art Theatre's time, all around with the MAT company, with Chekhov and Olga Knipper, with Stanislavski. This biography of the Russian actor, director and theoretician, has brought to me calm and silence in the middle of my noisy current life. This is not a poetic book this is a relate of events, a depiction over one artist who has been present in my professional life during decades, a simple biographic book.

Every part I read can be compared with hundreds of other texts and references; I know everyone and every event Benedetti is talking about but now he has put them together giving to me an ambiance, an atmosphere, a set... That's simply delicious!

Comments about the book will come later, of course.

Stanislavski. A Biography
By Jean Benedetti
Methuen Publis hers
Great Britain, 1988

*The image of the book is from the last edition, not that I bought.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Original film images from Meyerhold's Biomechanics.

Art Films, an Australian video art company, has just released a DVD with some original images from Meyerhold's Biomechanics, and I thought it was worth sharing them. Before today I had no idea about any film on Meyerhold's Biomechanics, so the first time I saw them I was surprised and in a shock; this is a jewel for anyone interested in theatre history and acting!

What I'm posting now is a promotional video, just extracts. I have no idea if these are all the original images the DVD contains because I have not ordered it yet; but these 2 minutes worth a post in a while:

This is a DVD created by Russian actors prepared in that school, with one of original Meyerhold's disciples. Here what Art Films says about the DVD:

"Meyerhold! A mix of creative genius and human vulnerability. Innumerable, those in agony over his loss, whom, like myself, loved him endlessly. Innumerable moments of excitement for those, who witnessed the creative magic of this one time wizard of the stage." Sergei Eisenstein Is Meyerhold, framed and murdered by Stalin in 1940, the "greatest theater master" (Eisenstein) of our century? Perhaps. He is without a doubt the most puzzling. Biomechanics was the core and culmination point of his theatrical concept. Its traces were disfigured, smeared, and distorted by history and politics. Its traces were searched and researched by many, including Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook and The Living Theater.

In the 1990's, after the opening of archives in the former Soviet Union, an original source of Biomechanics became known. Nikolai Kustow, the Biomechanics instructor in Meyerhold's Theater, maintained a "hidden" school and secretly passed on principles and etudes to a new genera-tion of actors.

In this video, Russian actor and pedagogue, Gennadi Bogdanov is shown presenting the most important etudes and principles of Biomechanics. In addition to historical film and photodocumentation of Biomechanics, the video also displays recent scenic work from Europe and the USA developed from the basis of Meyerhold's Biomechanics.
In English, 43 mins, colour and black & white."

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