At the center of the exquisite Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion is a romantic and poetic love story about a couple who encounter many obstacles, including parental opposition, invading Mongol hordes, and bungling comic ser... more »vants. Intimate episodes alternate with elaborate set pieces, lyrical poetry with low slapstick comedy. This abridged version of the epic masterpiece from sixteenth-century dramatist Tang Xianzu is an all-embracing art form. Acting, singing, dance, acrobatics, stilt-walking, puppetry, recitation, pageantry, and martial arts all find a place in the rich tapestry of The Peony Pavilion. 120 minutes.« less
"I am not a long time Kun Qu fan. I got interested in it about 3 years ago. It was not an easy task to learn to appreciate the beauty and excitement of Kun Qu. But once I learned something about Kun Qu, I was totally obsessed with it. People who publish this DVD might think this way: since it is hard to appreciate Kun Qu, let's put lots of bells and whistles in this production to make it "exciting." Well, succeed indeed they. A lot of scenes are selected for this DVD simply because in these scences the stage is crowded with acrobats, exotic costumes, or fashionable stage design. I am not against those stage elements per se. But where is the performance? I want the performance! I really wish I could say something good about this DVD. I heard that the original 19-hours production was quite an achievement. Unfortunately, they picked up the dessert but left out the main dishes to produce this DVD."
A classic of the classical Chinese Operas
Dong Qing | Shanghai, China | 12/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Production is definatively the classic in the staging history of Chinese Opera. I follow the whole production, its rehearsal with original cast in Shanghai 1998 and its world premiere in Lincoln Center Festival 1999 in New York. The DVD-Version is very great both in picture and sound. Dobly Digital 5.1 original Chinese soundtrack gives a live effect which usually a film version of a opera production can not offer. I hope only if the DVD version could be more longer. 120 min. is some how too short for such 19 hours show. However like most fans and professionals in the circle of Chinese opera in North America, the original cast from Shanghai Kunju Troupe would be much better than those now we can see in this show. It is really panic at last they could not go to New York. The leading actress Qian Yi, who plays Du Liniang, gives her best performance. I like the leading actor Wun Yuhang who plays Liu Mengmei. He is like his saying, the best candidat for this role."
A fabulous epic !
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 12/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you love Chinese opera, don't miss this classic tale, written in 1598, and brought to life by director Chen Shi-Zheng, with genius, hard work, and a lot of determination.Tape # 1 has an introduction which includes interviews with the cast and director. There is also a man who speaks in French (with no subtitles) who is never introduced, but perhaps if one understands French, who he is becomes clear.
Then the opera begins ! This epic production was 19 hours long, and in this abridged version, one gets a taste of its magnificence. Narrated in parts to make the plot more understandable in its condensed form, actor Robert Powell does a fine and unobtrusive job.The delicacy and complexity of the movements (taking years of training), make this a visual as well as a musical treat. The costumes are sumptuous, and the set, with its pond in front of the stage (with ducks !), is lovely.Quan Yi in the lead is exquisite, from her singing to every movement of her hands. She glides along the stage as if she had wings on her dainty slippered feet. It's a remarkable performance, and the rest of the cast is also superb. This amazing piece of theater has poetry, humor, some very subtle eroticism, and much beauty from beginning to end.The hour long second tape has a quick synopsis of the opera, as well as an explanation of how this production was made...the casting, the 400 artisans who created the spectacular costumes, and the difficulties of getting it out of China, as well as a history of the art form. It's very educational, and I recommend seeing this before tape # 1...I think it will add much to the appreciation of it.
Bravo to everyone who contributed to this massive effort, and especially to Chen Shi-Zheng, who's labor of love finally came to fruition, and one sees the satisfaction of it in his eyes as he takes the curtain calls in the end."
More Shakespeare than Verdi
E. A. Lovitt | Gladwin, MI USA | 08/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review is written by someone who is familiar with Western Opera, but who has never seen a Chinese Opera until given a copy of "The Peony Pavilion." A suggestion for prospective listeners with a similar musical background: initially you might be overwhelmed by the color, the odd (to the Western ear) falsetto singing and speaking, and the stylized movements and acrobatics of the opera itself, so it might be best to watch the add-on, "The Making of The Peony Pavilion" before attempting the actual opera. It will introduce you to the singers, explain how the opera finally arrived at Lincoln Center, and show you many of the details that went into the production, e.g. the silk embroidery, the musical instruments, and the origin of the 300 or so songs in the opera. There is also a quick plot summary and an introduction to the main characters: Du Liniang (Beautiful Du), the heroine who dies of love and returns from the grave to marry her scholarly lover; the handsome young scholar, Liu Mengmei (Willow Dream of Plum); Du's parents; her pert little maid; her gabby old tutor; the King of the Underworld; the old nun, Sister Stone (one of my favorites). And many others--many, many other characters, all fascinating, including a fierce woman warrior (a role always played by a cross-dressing, falsetto-singing male).The nineteen-hour adaptation of "The Peony Pavilion" that was performed at Lincoln Center is condensed to two hours here. (For all I know, the nineteen-hour opera is an abbreviated version of the 1598 original by master dramatist Tang Xianzu, that had over fifty scenes and took days to perform.) English subtitles are available, and an English narrator explains the parts of the plot that were left out of the recorded version. If this is not enough for you, I think you must travel to China before you can see the entire opera. I don't believe it is scheduled to return to Lincoln Center.In spite of (or because of?) the stylized costumes and gestures, and in spite of the fact that they're singing in Chinese, the characters come vividly alive on the stage. "The Peony Pavilion" experience seemed more like watching one of Shakespeare's bawdier plays, rather than listening to a Western-style opera. I recommend the excellent "Chinese Opera: Images and Stories" by Siu Wang-Ngai (with Peter Lovrick) if you'd like a written introduction to Chinese Opera--lots of gorgeous photographs, too."
Gorgeous, incredible, beautiful production
S. Burke | Minneapolis, MN USA | 01/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
What can I say that my title doesn't? The costumes and sets were stunningly beautiful, the music was played exquisitely, and the DVD includes a documentary about the story portrayed in the opera, and of how this production came together. The original performance was longer than could fit on a single DVD so it was edited down to 2 hours, however the choice of scenes to include and the segues between scenes were very well selected -- I found the story played out very accessibly with the choices of scenes.