The Art of the Kunqu Opera Dan
Lecture-Demonstration and Workshop
25 March 2012
UK Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture
London Jing Kun Opera Association
The UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture (UKCTC) and the London Jing Kun Opera Association (LJKOA) held a lecture-demonstration and workshop on The Art of the Kunqu Opera Dan. This was the opening event of the series of 6 lecture-demonstrations sponsored by the UKCTC in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the LJKOA.
The speaker and actor was Ms Li Huixin (Mrs Kathy Hall), founder of LJKOA, and Kunqu and Jingju practitioner. The 24-minute excerpt presented was taken from In Pursuit of the Dream from The Peony Pavilion (《牡丹亭》之《寻梦》). Mrs Hall was supported by four members of the LJKOA Kunqu Ensemble: Mr Ying Wan -drum and clappers (gu and ban), Mr Jack Footitt -bamboo flute (di zi), Mr Ruard Absaroka -3-stringed lute (san xian), and Miss Xiao Wang -fiddle (er hu). Chinese and English subtitles were provided to enhance audience appreciation. The event was extremely well-attended and a number of radio and television teams were present. Later, a fragment of the event appeared on The Chinese Channel based in the UK and the Xinhua News Online Television.
Kunqu has long been regarded as the jewel on the crown of the many genres of Chinese opera. It was recognised by UNESCO in 2001 as one of the First Nineteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This prestigious award has done much to enhance its image worldwide. Many Western educated people, as well as young Chinese, have since turned to it for research and performing arts material, to be studied and appreciated on stage.
For this event, Mrs Hall appeared resplendent in full costume and make-up. Despite the small performing area, she brought alive the quiet joys and pathos of Du Liniang, a young woman, isolated by feudal conventions and expectations. The elegant movements and the beauty of the Kunqu voice and music were mesmerising. It was wonderful to see the two British musicians (who incidentally are fluent in Mandarin) completely immersed in the music-making, just as their Chinese counterparts were.
After a short break, Mrs Hall bilingually introduced Kunqu history and some basic knowledge of the role types, stage conventions and music. Then came the excitement of audience participation in Kunqu singing. Music scores were handed out as well as projected on the screen. The audience was taught the melody, the musical notations, the Kunqu pronunciation and meaning of the words of a couple of phrases. Within minutes, a pleasing sound from the seriously studious audience was heard. It was undoubtedly Kunqu music!
Mrs Sherry Kuei Chan, the Dean of UKCTC, thanked the audience for their support, and the LJKOA for the expert presentation of this most refined art form. She said that UKCTC would continue to facilitate a dialogue between Chinese and other cultures, and invite the public to immerse themselves in traditional Chinese culture as experienced by the Chinese themselves.