Day 1 – 2013-02-02
After a long, long flight, my plane finally landed after midnight Beijing time. It took ca. half an hour or more to leave the terminal, because naturally the very last baggage showing up after many rounds was mine. My friend waited for me at the airport and delivered me in order to a city block near to Chongwenmen subway station, thus I spent the rest of the night in a not too fancy, but comfortable and safe apartment instead of a cardboard box.
In the morning we went to find some breakfast, but I refused to eat at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. After a few U-turns we ended up in a Yoshinoya so my first breakfast in China happened to be Japanese, and accidentally I chose a menu with chicken soup… My friend tried to stuff the pudding-like substance fluttering on the spoon into my mouth, but I resisted.
After stocking up a few essential foodstuffs (like sodium glutamate and eggs) in the fridge, we went to the theater in Qinglan Plaza because I wanted to see Song Haoyu and Suo Mingfang’s full edition Wulongyuan. The performance started at two o’clock in the afternoon, I couldn’t sleep much after the seventeen hours long trip.
My friend briefly introduced me to Song Haoyu, deposited me and left half an hour before the performance. Watching opera without purchasing a ticket is cost-efficient, yet somewhat inconvenient, since I spent the last thirty minutes with changing seats continuously.
Bertrand sent me a photo of a pair of embroidered satin shoes for bound feet, exhibited in the Musée national des arts de Paris – to be sincere, I find them scary. I hope this footwear won’t return to fashion with the imperial nostalgia…
“Chine trésors du quotidien” (Everyday Treasures from China) by grimaldiforum.com (2004), Qing Dynasty, end of 19th Century
I saw one of my weibo friends in the audience, later turned out he remembers me as well, but he didn’t know I’m foreigner. Because it wasn’t an over-advertised performance of a very popular play in a large theater, most spectators were real Beijing Opera fans, I had a feeling that the younger came to see these particular performers, and the older came to see this particular play.
Those who know me also know that I like this play very much. After stocktaking my favorites, I discovered certain similarities in the stories: Wulong Courtyard, Meilong Garrison (thanks Greg for the word), Lü Bu and Diaochan… each one has a trickygirl.
Concerning Wulongyuan, I’m more familiar with the Qi school version, and never saw the final part before. The appearance of Yan Xijiao’s ghost is a later addition to the original Water Margin story, and my impression is that this act is often left out, so naturally I was very curious.
While the Qi school Song Jiang is very forceful, the Ma school Song Jiang has a humorous side. Song Haoyu didn’t seem as dreadful as Zhou Xinfang in the classic old movie, better a mild-tempered man in despair who has no other option than to take back that letter by force.
The stage setup naturally was typical one table, two chairs-style. The full cast was: Suo Mingfang 索明芳 (huadan)、Song Haoyu 宋昊宇 (laosheng)、Li Yang 李扬 (hualian)、Zhang Dahuan 张大环 (laodan)、Bao Yan 包岩 (chou).
This is the single shot of our friendly Liangshan redhead that worked out.
Song Jiang is unable to tolerate Xijiao’s greediness any more. He signed the “divorce form”. Agreed that the girl can marry his secretary. Xijiao already took the gold from Song’s lost bag, yet she refuses to hand over the incriminating letter until she gets more. (I don’t think she ever was inclined to give it back.) No wonder she pays with her life.
After Haoyu “killed” her, Suo Mingfang was lying on her back. When she was supposed to leave the stage, two boys came and helped her – she couldn’t have managed to stand up alone in those stilts. (While writing this, I’m looking down at my yeti feet and feel very fortunate for being able to walk properly.)
And finally the ghost came out! Apparently I wasn’t the only one waiting for this part, I heard spectators whispering: “The ghost comes! The ghost comes!”
Suo Mingfang tiptoed through the stage in white and silver ghost costume, and lamented with a bitter face about her early and violent death. Yan Xijiao’s spirit visited her former lover in the library during the night – needless to say, Zhang Wenyuan was horrified. The ghost grabbed him by the neck with her shawl, and poor fellow ended up in Xijiao’s hands swaying from side to side.
My curtain call photo didn’t work out, but Xianwangzi‘s did:
On the very left is Song Haoyu who already changed clothes, the young man wearing designer eyeglasses on the very right is accompanist Lü Xunfu 吕勋福, jinghu player of the Beijing Jingju Theater.
After the performance spectators who had a ticket got a free table calendar, so there was a smaller tumult right at the exit that would have made an emergency situation difficult to handle, but I managed to make my way to the street and got home in twenty minutes. I ate some noodles, had a shower, wrote a few e-mails, then had a walk in slumberland.
to be cont.