Stills of the musical “Mei”.
The original musical “Mei”, an original musical show that shows the life story of Mei Lanfang, a master of Peking opera performing art, was premiered recently. The play explores the fusion of Peking opera and musical performance in the form of a combination of Chinese and Western styles, presenting the artistic charm of both “Chinese style” and “international style” with the charm of opera and contemporary aesthetics.
The curtain opened, and under the chasing lights, Mei Lanfang’s triple figures appeared one after another: when he was a teenager, he raised his head to look at the pigeons and practiced his eyes; when he was young, he wore a green dress and a curvy body; in the middle age, he had a beard and a bright ambition and sketched a plum blossom in the snow… …Recently, the original musical “Mei” produced by Beijing Beiqing Culture and Art Company, a project supported by the National Art Fund, premiered in Shanghai.
“Mei” narrates the life story of Mei Lanfang, a master of Peking opera performing art from the victory of the Anti-Japanese War to the liberation of Shanghai, with a combination of Chinese and Western art, showing his love for Peking opera and his deep family and country feelings. The play is about to be staged in Beijing.
Individual choices reflect the changes of the times
The first of the four famous Peking operas, the founder of Meipai Art… Mei Lanfang has many labels on her body. He was born in a family in the Liyuan family, he learned art as a young man, and he sang a brilliant story, and most people are familiar with it. However, “Mei” chose to take the victory of the War of Resistance in 1945 and Mei Lanfang’s re-appearance on stage for the first time in 8 years as the starting point of the story. Screenwriter Chi Jun said: “Musicals describe the relationship between personal destiny and the current of the times from the perspective of an artist, and reflect the great changes of the times with individual choices.”
The whole drama is divided into overture, comeback, future, inheritance, chaos, leave and stay, and epilogue. It is not difficult to get a glimpse of the ups and downs that Mei Lanfang experienced in the second half of his life from the subject headings. In the more than two-hour performance, what to choose and present, how to balance the artistic treatment of real history and drama, and how to comprehensively consider the music structure and drama tension are all difficult problems for the creative team. In the process of creating and scheduling for more than two years, the team reviewed a large amount of data, carefully verified historical facts, repeatedly adjusted and polished, and finally appeared as it appeared.
On the stage, the image of the ancient stage recurs and is also the visual support of the whole stage. It fits with the image of Mei Lanfang who sang operas and loved operas all his life. “In that era of war and chaos, the disassembly of the ancient stage building symbolized the changes in Mei Lanfang’s heart stage. Mr. Mei’s thoughts were melted on the stage and laid out in a moving space.” Choreography and costume designer Introduction by Bian Wentong. In addition, the addition of Chinese-style building eaves, Shanghai Shikumen and other elements, as well as the assistance of modern methods such as lighting and multimedia, have jointly created the rich charm of stage vision.
Cross-border exploration shows the charm of integration
As a generation of Peking Opera masters, Mei Lanfang’s story has been told time and time again in literary works, movies, documentaries, etc., “Mei” tried the narrative method of musicals. “I hope that through the relatively fashionable and popular style of musicals, more people will come to him.” said Zhang Hongsheng, the chief planner.
This is a cross-border exploration of the combination of Chinese and Western. Peking opera and musicals used to be distant mountains and rivers, and they did not hear each other. Nowadays, the quintessence of elegant rhyme and grand symphony meet on the stage, producing a wonderful reverberation. “In terms of musical expression, fusion is the most significant feature.” said director and composer Zhang Didi. The overall music style reflects the “international style”, the vigorous and vigorous symphony is progressive and interlocking, showing the collision of personal destiny and family and country feelings under the turbulent background of the time. But by listening carefully, you can also taste the “Chinese style”. During the creation process, Zhang Didi listened to a large number of famous Peking opera passages and added suitable sound patterns from classic passages such as “The Drunken Concubine”. At the same time, in order to get closer to the characters, the melodic lines of Mei Lanfang’s singing also incorporate many Peking Opera features, which sound high and low, clear and soft, and shape the inner world of Mei Lanfang, which is light and light but has a vast world. .
This is also a collision between ancient and modern cultures. “Mei” uses two “play-in-play” stages-“A Dream in the Garden” and “Mu Guiying Takes Command” to perform Mei Lanfang’s first performance after his comeback and the last work of his life, and invites professional actors and actresses Sing on stage. On this modern stage, similar opera elements abound. From the swinging sleeves of Tsing Yi dance, to the silhouette presentation of orchid fingering on the hand, to the clips of Mei Lanfang instructing apprentices to practice movements…one by one, singing, reading and playing, showing the vivid charm of Peking opera and leading the audience to fully experience the opera The charm of art.
“Currently, there are many imported repertoires in the domestic musical theater market. This musical is an attempt, hoping to find a style of Chinese musical theater that not only reflects the charm of opera, but also conforms to the contemporary aesthetics, and resonates with the audience.” Zhang Didi said .
Artistic expression conveys family and country feelings
The story of “Mei” took place in Shanghai in the 1940s. In order to allow the actors to portray a standing character, the creative team worked hard on lines and other aspects to restore the sense of age. On the other hand, the actors were required to receive professional opera training to get closer to the role in terms of body and other details.
In terms of artistic expression, the dual perspectives of “He is Mei Lanfang” and “I am Mei Lanfang” run through the whole play and advance the plot. At the same time, the story is told in parallel spaces with multiple stages. In the fourth game, Mei Lanfang’s apprentice Li Shifang passed away unexpectedly. On the side of the stage, Mei Lanfang, who was preparing to perform in the backstage, learned the news and collapsed on the seat, chanting heartache. On the other side of the stage, Li Shifang appeared behind the curtain. Two stages, across time and space, looking at each other.
It is worth mentioning that there is a gray line of grass snakes in “Plum”, buried in the stage, and then surfaced. In the play, Mei Lanfang said: “Where is the seat, I will be there”, sonorously and powerfully. And the “Mu Guiying in Command” on the stage of the play sings: “If I am not in charge, who will be in charge, and who will lead me if I don’t lead the army.” It is equally impressive. One line, one drama, one bright and one dark, echoing each other, outlines Mei Lanfang’s proud hero, who has perseverance and love for opera, and has a deep sense of family and country. This is what “Mei” wants to convey. “These spirits will not be outdated and need to be promoted.” Zhang Hongsheng said.
“When the curtain falls, you turn around and leave, leaving behind the legend of Mei Lan Fanghua, the gongs and drums sound and the sleeves are silent, fanning the love characters and hiding the powder…” At the end of “Mei”, the actors on the stage sang together. On the ancient stage, the plum blossoms fell, and the curtain slowly fell. At the end of the premiere, many viewers were still immersed in it. (Reporter Guan Xuanyue)
“People’s Daily” (15th edition on December 03, 2021)
Editor in charge: Zhang Jingwen Return to Sohu to see more
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