Taiwan's GuoGuang Opera Company (國光劇團) and Siong Leng Musical Association (SLMA, 湘靈音樂社) of Singapore will co-perform "Phaedra (費特兒)," a cross-cultural collaboration adapted from a tragedy written in 17th century by French dramatist Jean Racine, with GuoGuang members performing with Peking opera singing and modern dance styles and accompanied by traditional Nanguan music played by Siong Leng.
The co-production will first be staged at the Taipei-based Taiwan Traditional Theater Center from March 29 through 31, with showings scheduled for the Stamford Arts Centre of Singapore in April.
GuoGuang, Taiwan's only national Peking opera troupe, was introduced to Siong Leng in 2017 through National Arts Council Singapore. The two sides agreed to work together on developing a performance based on their common ground in pursuing innovation, cultivating performing talents, and attracting new audience members.
"Phaedra" is scripted by Chao Hsueh-chun (趙雪君), a talented playwright in Taiwan known for her diligent work on revitalizing Peking opera. Previously, Chao wrote the plays "The Golden Cangue (金鎖記)," "One Hundred Years on Stage (百年戲樓)," and "Flowing Sleeves and Rouge (水袖與胭脂)" for GuoGuang Opera Company.
In this latest operatic adaption, Chao changes the setting from Greek mythology to that of an ancient Oriental tribe. The tribe's queen is trapped between rational self-restraint and emotional, impulsive desire when she falls in love with a son of the king's foreign concubine and has to consider the survival of her own son and the tribe as a whole.
The roles of the queen and her maidservant are both played by Chu Sheng-li (朱勝麗), who performs huadan (vivacious young female) roles for Guoguang with rich skill. Zhang Xiao-xiong (張曉雄), a famous choreographer in Taiwan, was also invited to develop a dance routine incorporating modern flavors for the opera.
Although the opera is a cross-cultural co-production, it will retain the essence and styles of both GuoGuang and Siong Leng, which are underscored by lyrics sung in Peking operatic style and Nanguan chanting style, as well as the clever transitions between the two different types of performances.
A co-production between Taiwan and Singapore
A new experimental work featuring
Peking opera, Nanyin music, and modern dance
A modern interpretation of a Greek tragedy
Of forbidden love entangled with the affairs of the state
Day and night, the Queen is consumed by pure desire and passion
Tormented by an obsession for her stepson that knows no bounds
Taipei Performances: March 29 – 31, 2019
Singapore Performances: To be announced soon