Opera for the adventure-seeker

Opera for the adventure-seeker


Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert, is an ambitious adaptation of a classic Chinese short story, which will be staged at the Esplanade’s Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts. (Photo: Esplanade)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, goes the widely accepted saying. Yet classics often inspire adaptations because of their enduring appeal, especially when they have a plot that involves an illicit love affair.

The popular story, Painted Skin, from the Chinese anthology, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (1740), by Pu Songling has spawned many film and TV adaptations. One of its latest reincarnations is as an opera by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO).

Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert, will be staged at the upcoming Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts at the Esplanade. The production is co-commissioned by the Esplanade, China Shanghai International Arts Festival and SCO.

What sets this operatic adaptation apart is its marriage of old and new, East and West. The show promises multi-media projections and contemporary theatrical elements, in addition to solid singing accompanied by a traditional Chinese music ensemble.

If you never thought opera was your cup of tea, or if you are too much of a fan of earlier versions of Painted Skin, here are three reasons why adventure-seekers like yourself might want to take the plunge and catch this show.

Fusion, not confusion
The production is of a Western operatic style, but it incorporates performative elements from Peking Opera. And instead of a Western symphonic orchestra, the music is performed by a traditional Chinese music ensemble. The resulting genre-bending production is neither a rehash of the same-old, nor a chaotic mish-mash, assures SCO’s music director Yeh Tsung. 

More than a ghost story
This is no ordinary creepy ghost story. It gets under your skin, but it also tugs at your heartstrings. The protagonist, a scholar, crosses paths with a beautiful woman crying in the rain; his heart goes tender, he gifts her an umbrella out of kindness. Little does he know that she is a demon disguised in human skin.  Beneath the superficial spookiness, there are all kinds of human passion at play, including love, hate and betrayal. This spell-binding plot might just get opera newbies hooked on the genre.

See musicians act
In this production, the musicians sit on stage instead of in the orchestral pit, and they dialogue with the actors through music. At times, the actor sings the melody while the musicians provide the harmony; at other times, the instruments and musicians take the spotlight. Because the musicians are seated on stage, their every gesture, from the way they hold their instruments, down to the way they sit, affect the mise-en-scene and overall storytelling. How this chemistry pans out should pique the curious theatre- and concert-goer.

 

Details on Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert here.

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