Traditional Operas on Screen | Screening list of Chinese opera films released
As the essence of Chinese traditional culture, opera plays an important role in the history of Chinese cinema. The first film independently shot by Chinese is the Peking Opera film The Battle of Dingjunshan in 1905; the first color film in New China is the Shaoxing Opera film Butterfly Lovers produced in the 1950s. As the internet is developing rapidly now, film is still the most appropriate and effective carrier to publicizing opera culture. This year, the Shanghai International Film Festival has specially set up the Chinese Opera Films screening program, putting 6 traditional operas on screen; both filmgoers and drama fans will enjoy themselves to the full.
In Pursuit of The General / The Orphan of Zhao / The Mirror of Fortune /Kan Yuchuan / Xie Yaohuan / Mu Guiying Command
In Pursuit of The General
Directed by: Teng Junjie
Written by: Li Zhongcheng/ Wang Yongshi
Starring: Chen Shaoyun/ FU Xiru/ He Shu/ Yan Qinggu/ Jin Xiquan
During the Chu–Han Contention, Liu Bang intends to go back to the east and orders Zhang Liang to find brave and battlewise generals. Zhang Liang chooses Han Xin, who doesn’t have an opportunity to show his talents when working for Xiang Yu, writes a recommendation letter for him and asks him to see Liu Bang. However, Han Xin is too self-conceit to show the letter when meeting Liu Bang. Knowing Han Xin’s competence, the Prime Minister Xiao He pleads to Liu to appoint Han for several times, but Lui rejects it because Han was once a beggar and crawled between another's legs. Han Xin leaves with anger. Deeply concerned with losing the talent, Xiao He rides on a horse for miles overnight to pursue Han Xin and persuades him to change his mind. Liu Bang finally appoints Han as the general.
In Pursuit of The General was original one of the most famous Peking operas performed by Zhou Xinfang, founder of Lin School of Peking Opera, in his early age. The adapted opera film enjoys impressive professional and artistic features: co-directed by the famous Peking Opera performer Zhu Weigang, the inheritor of Gao School Li Chuncheng and National Class-A Actor Qi Baoyu, and written by the renowned scriptwriters Li Zhongcheng and Wang Yongshi, who have participated in the creation of opera film Farewell My Concubine.
The Orphan of Zhao
Directed by: Ma Chongjie
Starring: Zhu Qiang/ Tan Xiaozeng/ Wang Rongrong/ Meng Guanglu/ Shu Tong
During the Spring and Autumn period, Tu'an Gu exterminates the Zhao family. The daughter-in-law of Zhao, Lady Zhuang is the daughter of Duke Ling, the ruler of the Jin state, and thus is able to hide in the palace and gives birth to a child. Lady Zhuang entrusts her newborn child to the physician Cheng Ying, who enters the palace and saves the infant. He then consults his old friend Gongsun Chujiu. To prevent this massacre, Cheng Ying decides to sacrifice his own child. Gongsun Chujiu departs with Cheng's child, whom he presented as the Zhao orphan. In the self-sacrifice, both Gongsun and the child are murdered. Cheng Ying has taken care of the orphan during his early life. The Zhao orphan, later known as Zhao Wu, has reached maturity. On a fateful day, the orphan is in Cheng Ying's study, where he discovers a scroll depicting all the people involved in the tragic events relating to his early life. Zhao Wu then kills Tu'an Gu in the streets and avenges his family.
The director Ma Chongjie has been raised in an opera family as the nephew of the Peking Opera master Ma Lianliang. After graduating from the Directing program of Beijing Film Academy, he has directed a number of excellent films on Chinese operas. This time, to reproduce the Peking Opera masterpiece The Orphan of Zhao, Ma Chongjie invited Zhu Qiang, Tan Xiaozeng and Wang Rong among the Top Nine Performers of Mei Lanfang Peking Opera troupe, to join in the production.
The Mirror of Fortune
Directed by: Xiao Lang/ Xiao Feng
Starring: Chen Yuan/ Zhang Chanyu/ Gao Hang/ Shao Hailong/ Lu Yan
During the ruling of Chenghua Emperor in Ming Dynasty, Lady Xu, the concubine of the mayor of Yingzhou Mei Jun bribes a physiognomist to murder Lady Hu, so that she can be the legal wife. Hearing of the message, the maid Shouchun helps Lady Hu to escape to the capital with the Mirror of Fortune. Lady Hu gives birth to a child on the way, but then loses the infant when being plundered by a gang of robbers. Hu is thus driven crazy, and the child is found and adopted by the mayor of Daizhou Lin He. 17 years later, Lin He is transferred as the mayor of Jingdu, and posts the drawing of the Mirror of Fortune to find the mother of his adopted son. Unexpectedly, Lady Hu, Shouchuan, as well as Mei Jun and Lady Xu all come to claim the Mirror. On the court, Lin He finds out the truth, punishes Lady Xu and the physiognomist, while Lady Hu and Mei Jun finally reunite.
The Mirror of Fortune is a classic play of Shang School of Peking Opera. The director Xiao Lang have participated in producing a number of opera films in recent years, thus having accumulated abundant experience in the field, while Xiao Feng has also directed the sensation of a time – Peking Opera film Silver Spear. The alliance between the two has created astonishing chemical reactions.
Directed by: Xia Weiliang
Starring: Xiong Mingxia/ Chang Qiuyue
In the Ming Dynasty, the imperial family chooses concubines. The rich man Yu Ren forces his poor son-in-law Zhang Shaolian to cancel the engagement with his daughter Suqiu so that Suqiu could join in the selection. Suqiu discusses with her mother, takes out a pair of jade bracelets and asks the maid Luanying to send one of them to Zhang as a token of marriage. Zhang’s friend Han Cheng pretends to be Zhang and rapes Suqiu in her house; at the same time, Jianghai secretly enters the house, killing Suqiu’s mother and Luanying and taking away the other bracelet. Shaolian is wronged and put into prison. Till then, Suqiu realizes she has been cheated and raped, so commits suicide. Jianghai sells the jade bracelet on a street, happening to meet Han Cheng’s sister Yujie and knows that she has the other bracelet. He then tries to steal it, but is caught by the constable. When reviewing former cases, the censor Chen Zhi finds out some doubtful points and summons Han Cheng. Yujie comes with her brother and tells the truth. She also admires Shaolian a lot and asks to be his wife. Brought together by Chen Zhi, the two finally get married.
The opera was adapted by dramatist Chen Moxiang based on the “Censor Chen Investigates Bracelet Case” Chapter in the book Stories Old and New from Ming Dynasty, taking Yu Suqiu and Han Yujie as main characters. Xun Huisheng played the two characters with his unique performing style in the opera, which was premiered on August 27, 1934. After that, it has been favored by the audience till now, and has become the top play of Xun School.
Directed by: Ma Chongjie
Starring: Ding Xiaojun/ Jin Xiquan/ Wang Yan/ Dou Xiaoxuan
During the Tang Dynasty, the female officer Xie Yaohuan takes the order from the emperor to investigate in Jiangnan in disguise, where she encounters Yi Xingjian and falls in love with him. The two thus work together to penalize evildoers. Wu Sansi and Lai Junchen hate her and frames her up. Hearing the news, the emperor Wu Zetian comes to Jiangnan in person and finds justice for Xie Yaohuan.
Xie Yaohuan is a historical play written by modern drama master Tian Han in 1961 based on the local drama in Shaanxi Female Officer. As the most renowned drama of National Peking Opera Company, the opera was first played by the prestigious Peking opera performer Du Jinfang. In the reproduction, the director Ma Chongjie chose two young artists – Jin Xiquan and the student of Du Jinfang, Ding Xiaojun, in order to inject some refreshing energy to the historic work.
Mu Guiying Command
Directed by: Xia Gang
Written by: Song Feng
Starring: Li Shengsu/ Yu Kuizhi/ Yuan Huiqin/ Yang Chia/ Du Zhe
During the Northern Song Dynasty, Western Xia invades. Hearing the message, She Saihua, who has retired from the political life, dispatched her great-grandson Yang Wenguang and great-granddaughter Yang Jinhua to go to the capital for more information. Yang Wenguang joins in a contest in the drill ground, defeating Wang Lun – the son of Minister of War Wang Qiang and taking back the command seal. Knowing well that the imperial family is unsympathetic and never feels grateful, Mu Guiying is reluctant to offer her service. She Saihua persuades her that she shall consider the life or death of the whole nation, so Mu goes out for battle.
In 1959, Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang adapted Yu Opera Mu Guiying Command into a Peking Opera to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which later became a classic drama of Mei School. This is the first time for the famous film director Xia Gang to direct an opera film. He casted Li Shengsu – student of Mei Baojiu and Director of National Peking Opera Company Troupe 1, Deputy Director of National Peking Opera Company Yu Kuizhi, Director of Dalian Peking Opera Company Yang Chi and a number of established opera performers, hoping to stage a new classic for the audience.