Not long ago, some 20,000 local opera fans in eastern China's Jiangsu province have again enjoyed a number of the best of Wuxi operas created in recent years during the 7th Wuxi opera festival in the opera's hometown, Wuxi.
The soundtrack we're hearing now is taken from the Wuxi opera "Drizzle in South China". This is the opera that was unveiled at this year's Wuxi opera festival. The story is about when a rich man dies and leaves behind six pretty young wives. The central character in the story is A Xian, the first wife. To protect the giant feudal family from losing face, A Xian tried all means to pacify the other five wives, to prevent them from having affairs with other men. Yet, the most luxurious lifestyle still can't replace the hearts' deepest yearning. All five wives, and finally A Xian herself, fall secretly in love with other men, which puts A Xian into a really bitter struggle between genuine love and the family's name, as women in feudal China times were supposed to remain loyal to their dead husband.
Wuxi Opera, which was originally called Tanhuang, first appeared during the Qing Dynasty, and has about 100 years of history. Sung in the Wuxi dialect, this opera style was originally a rural art from, written and performed by farmers. It was not until the early 20th century that Wuxi opera was introduced to cities. The opera is characterized by vivid colloquial language and slang, and the rich flavor of everyday life. Today, this art form is still is popular in East China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
Although the plot of "Drizzle in South China" is an ancient one, the opera is now being staged in a most trendy way. Actually, it has overthrown part of an age-old tradition of Wuxi opera. During the performance, the long-sleeved traditional opera costumes are replaced by realistic traditional dresses, while western musical instruments such as the violin are introduced to the live accompaniments, which were originally only made up of traditional musical instruments such as the "erhu", a two string instrument, and the "pipa", a plucked string instrument, as well as the Chinese lute.
The opera's director, Tao Xianlu, was a drama director. Although this is the first time for her to work on a Wuxi opera, Tao Xianlu is famous for combining traditional and western operas.
"I'm a director specialized in drama directing. Yet I come from a family where all members are loyal opera fans. With this Wuxi opera, I put a lot of drama and western opera elements into it, to better represent the inner struggles of A Xian, her fight with the feudal system and her deep longing. This basically requires the opera actress to also possess the quality of a drama performer. As for how far the character A Xian could go, we also don't know, but at least she says 'No' to the part of herself who intended to abide by feudal society rules. It can easily remind us of Henrik Ibsen's Nora."
In fact, to fully depict the inner struggle of her character A Xian, actress Huang Jinghui experimented in combining the vocal characteristics of both modern and operatic singing.