Vancouver Cantonese Opera chose the challenging musical Reunion at the Moon Pavilion and artistic director Rosa Cheng hopes the accessible and engaging work resonates with local audiences. The opera will be performed at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby(Sept. 16, 7 p.m.).
Reunion at the Moon Pavilion is a love story that had been adapted from the “Yuan Dynasty four drama of love” called Praying to the Moon. The opera was written by Tong Dik San, a famous dramatist and playwright who wrote the opera for the legendary Fei Fan Ho and Ng Gwan Lai. The arias in this opera were written in rhythmic and rhymed poetry.
“The script was well-structured, dramatically coherent and elegantly written. Mr. Tong was an icon of his time in Cantonese opera,” says Cheng.
The story takes place during the war torn period of the Yuan Dynasty. It reflects the rigid class and feudal system in society and within the family where conflict exists between filial piety (obedience to one’s parents) and the freedom to choose one’s marriage partners.
“Both of the central characters were prepared to choose death as the means of resistance. Fortunately, all’s well that ends well, a happy ending ensues after a number of setbacks,” says Cheng.
The opera’s lyrics are a daunting challenge for the performers to gracefully interpret the characters in this classic.
Fifty years after Tong’s death, his operas are still highly respected and performed by many Cantonese opera companies around the world, she notes.
“The librettos were outstanding works of literature. The music is so exquisitely embroidered with the characters and the plot, the dazzling lyrical music leaves the audiences breathless,” says Cheng.
The moral of this opera is still relevant and conveys the heritage/culture of China. Arts and heritage of a culture never become out of date. It is considered a very important part of Chinese history.
“Just like all the plays from Shakespeare, will they ever become out of date?” asks Cheng.
Wai Ling Ho, the principal performer, is a famous professional Cantonese opera artist from Hong Kong. She specializes in playing male characters.
When Ho was a teenager, she started studying under her uncle, Fei Fan Ho, who was a famous opera artist during the 1950s. He was compared to Hollywood’s Clark Gable. Under his guidance, Ho built a solid foundation in the Chinese opera performing arts.
For many years, she has become the lead performer of many Cantonese opera troupes in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and North America. Ten years ago, she formed her own company “Fei Fan Heung Cantonese Opera Troupe.”
Ho has been the principal performer for Vancouver Cantonese Opera since 2003.
Cheng began studying Cantonese opera in Vancouver in 1993, and has studied under many renowned Cantonese and Beijing opera artists like Lee SiuWah, Li Xiao Fu and TseZi Ming in singing and performing arts. She has performed in many Cantonese operas and has also been involved in many Cantonese opera productions and multicultural heritage festivals.
Her vision is to create, present, promote and preserve Cantonese opera in Canada. In addition to the public relations aspect of the troupe, she is in charge of the day-to-day administration; teaches opera classes in the Lower Mainland; and regularly conducts Chinese opera workshops at schools and libraries.
For more information, visit www.vancanopera.com.