i’d planned to come up here to Manhattan (i was in Philly for work) for a couple days now, but it wasn’t until i heard on NPR yesterday about the Peony Pavilion performances at The Met that i had my first concrete plan (other than meeting a friend for brunch tomorrow).
nothing could have prepared me for what i was about to see and hear. as an American-Born Chinese (aka ABC), i heard bits and pieces of Chinese opera and traditional music growing up (not from my parents, though), and even though i’ve been to China twice before, i really had no idea what was in store. i never liked traditional Chinese music and was afraid i’d default to a D: (tilt your head to the right if you’re not familiar with that emoticon) once the music and singing started.
not gonna lie, i came very close at times. i thought long and heard after the performance about how to put it nicely…let’s just say i didn’t think the human voice could produce such pitches.
i’ll try and summarize the story in the photo captions — scroll down past the pictures for a video. note that this version, by composer/conductor Tan Dun, is already an abridged (at 70 minutes) version of the original by Tang Xianzu (written in 1597!), which is made up of 55 scenes performed over several days.
last but not least, the video that shows the umm, peculiar sounds of Chinese opera (this is a form known as Kunqu). here, the scholar cannot believe the ghost he’s seeing is the lady in the painting. i’m warning you, it’s a bit umm, piercing.
if you’re interested, there’s a full-length video put up by the museum of last night’s premiere.