The Taiwan Peking and Kunqu Opera Troupe (臺灣京崑劇團) will debut its new production titled "Good and Devil — Double-sided Wuqi (良將與惡魔：雙面吳起)" in Taipei from April 26 to 28 as part of the 2019 Taiwan Traditional Theatre Festival, which runs from March 28 through June 2 at the Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center.
The opera tells of the dramatic fate of Wu Qi (吳起), a well-known military strategist, philosopher, and politician in the Warring States (475 – 221 BC) period of ancient China, from his triumphant rise to the prime ministership of the State of Chu to his miserable death in a hate killing.
As the troupe's monumental performance for this year, the production was co-scripted by Academia Sinica academician Tseng Yong-yih (曾永義) and professor Wang Chiung-ling (王瓊玲), who developed six main acts based on the major events in Wu’s life — "Bites Arm as Pledge to Mother (囓臂別母)," "Kills Wife for Commander Appointment (殺妻求將)," "Defending Xihe (鎮守西河)," "Plot to Expel Wuqi (計逐吳起)," "Amicability Between the King and his Subordinate (君臣相得)," and "Reforming Chu into a Powerhouse (變法楚強)."
The play portrays Wu as one who made his mark in history by manipulating his diplomacy in royal courts and frequently prevailing enemies by surprise in battles, but he ended up dead without fulfilling his ambitious goals no matter how clever his calculations were and how desperately he was risking his life for personal advancement.
The two scholars completed the six-act play with rigorous historic review after undertaking comprehensive studies of the Warring States era, and thoughtfully tailoring historical materials for the storyline that they have arranged.
The troupe produced a kun opera that features the role of jing (painted face to denote strong or rough masculine character) for the first time. Ding Yang-shih (丁揚士) and Tseng Han-shou (曾漢壽), two famous kun opera performers, will both play the lead character to respectively interpret Wu's qualities of an excellent general and his characteristics of a devil.
Zhou Qin (周秦), a kun opera scholar and a professor of Suzhou University of Science and Technology, was also invited to compose tailored-made music that reflects Wu’s controversial characteristics and his ultimate fate of misery.
The National Center for Traditional Arts noted that, by looking back on Wu's favorable circumstances and unfavorable end, this opera reflects the disgraceful sides of officialdom and Wu's inhumane choices that always put him in jeopardy as a result of compromised morals. Also, by including some fictitious historic elements to round out the script, this opera is able to fully explore the age-long conflict between human principles and weaknesses.
By pooling together exquisite traditional art productions from home and abroad, the Taiwan Traditional Theatre Festival provides a unique platform for modern-day theater artists to not only brainstorm and try out new ideas, but also pass down their skills and reinvigorate the field of traditional performing arts.
Ticketing information and more can be found here.