Beijing Opera at CU, Thursday, March 1 and Friday, March 2
Athens, W.Va. - The elegant production of “Tales from the Beijing Opera” is coming to Concord University on March 1 and 2. The most diverse of China’s performing arts, “Beijing Opera” combines dance, acrobatics, stage combat, mime and dialogue into a theatrical whole. During the Qing Dynasty, Beijing was a center for theatrical activity, commerce and politics. Traveling opera companies came to Beijing to perform for traders and government officials eager to hear the music and dialects of their hometowns. Beijing Opera developed as an amalgamation of several of the most popular of the regional forms. It has a reputation for being rowdy and colorful.
The costumes and makeup are elaborate, but the scenery and props are sparse. A chair or table may double as a mountain. A tasseled crop represents a horse. A paddle indicates a boat. Three circles around the stage is the equivalent of a long journey. These conventions give Beijing Opera an atmosphere of magic and simplicity.
“We are so fortunate to have a professional national touring company such as this perform at Concord University,” Nancy Ellison, Director of Multicultural Affairs, said. “This program is possible through a grant from the Higher Education Policy Commission. Our goal is to promote cultural exchange and artistic exploration.”
Stories are often taken from history, mythology and literature. Martial plays feature battle scenes with famous generals, heroic outlaws or women warriors. Civil plays focus of dance and mime, and can be comic skits or tragic dramas. Some of the scenes include the following:
“Autumn River” is a romantic tale of a nun who escapes from her convent in order to pursue the young scholar whom she loves. This episode consists of comic dialogue and mime as an old boatman helps her across Autumn River.
“Monkey and Pigsy” is a selection from China’s most beloved story, Journey to the West, about the naughty Monkey King, gluttonous Pigsy and their master, the monk Tang Sheng who leads them to enlightenment. In this scene Monkey and Pigsy’s crimes against Heaven lead them to banishment on earth where they continue to make trouble by stealing a magic weapon from a dragon.
“Farewell My Concubine” is the classic tale of tragic love between the General Xiang Yu and his concubine Yu Ji. The story takes place in the hours before the defeat of Xiang Yu’s army to his enemy Liu Bang of the Han dynasty. Yu Ji comforts her lover with a sword dance and as the invading army approaches, Xiang Yu fights gallantly, but to no avail.
“Fighting in the Dark” uses mime and stage combat to illustrate the comic episode of an innkeeper’s attempt to kill one of his guests in the darkened room.
Two performances are scheduled in the Main Theater of the Alexander Fine Arts Center. Both performances are free and open to the public. The first performance will take place on Thursday, March 1 at 8 p.m. On Friday, March 2 a performance will be given at 9 a.m. for area middle and high school groups. Principals or teachers should call 1-304-384-6086 or e-mail Nancy Ellison at email@example.com to make reservations for this performance.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679, extension 6086 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.