The New York Kunqu Troupe performs Chinese opera

The New York Kunqu Troupe of The Kunqu Society will perform two acts from Pan Chin-lien, a contemporary Chinese opera adapted from Shen Jing’s 16th-century classical work Yi Xia Ji at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College Street. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Acts three and four of the opera comprise this performance, which will include an introductory lecture on the genre of Kunqu by Ban Wang of the Chinese Information and Culture Center. Ban Wang’s talk will be followed by the theatrical and orchestral production, ending with a question-and-answer session. English subtitles will be projected on a screen to assist the audience in following the story.

The story, set in 12th-century Northern Sung Dynasty in a city in Yanggu County, focuses on maid Pan Chin-lien. Upon refusing to become her master’s concubine, Pan Chin-lien is forced by him to marry a hideous street peddler. Acts three (“Seduction and Departure”) and four (“First Encounter and the Conquest”) of the opera find Pan Chin-lien secretly in love with her husband’s handsome brother, Wu Song, who angrily rebuffs her attempts at seduction. Drowning in despair, the beautiful young woman is secretly pursued by Ximen Qing, an infamous libertine of the region, and the two carry on illicitly in the house of a go-between.

During the last century, various regional theaters in China have presented the play in different formats with minor alterations in the details of the story. The images of the two protagonists, Wu Song and Pan Chin-lien, have undergone a transformation indicative of the moral concepts and sensibilities of the time.

Kunqu is a form of Chinese musical drama, including a combination of play, opera, ballet, poetry recital and music. It also draws on earlier forms of Chinese theatrical performance such as mime, farce, acrobatics, ballads and medley, some of which precede the third century B.C. It is first and foremost a performing art with a plot usually familiar to the audience or else made available through a prose summary.

Founded in 1997, the New York Kunqu Troupe is a professional Kunqu theater company affiliated with The Kunqu Society, a nonprofit group whose objectives include the preservation, study and advancement of the art of Kunqu. Founded in 1988 by as group of Kunqu scholars, artists, musicians and students, the society has established itself as a leading Kunqu theater company in the United States.

Funding for this performance was made possible by Bates parents William and Dee Dee Spence of Chicago, Ill.

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