sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2010-02-27 01:05 am

I see shapes forming inside paintings

Tonight was the world premiere of Zhou Long and Cerise Lim Jacobs' Madame White Snake by Opera Boston; I saw it with [ profile] fleurdelis28, [ profile] gaudior, [ profile] eredien, and [ profile] nineweaving, and it was amazing. The short version is that there need to be more operas with Buddhist morals. The slightly longer version is that it is, appropriately, an opera of many shapes, not only the dual Chinese-American heritage that informs both music and staging or the human and spirit worlds its characters transition between, but also the polyphony of stances they take on such elemental and elusive things as love, truth, mortality, identity, nirvana, ultimately answering nothing definitely for the audience: the effect is not unlike a koan. The badly abbreviated musicology is that I wish I knew more about Beijing opera, because I could identify fragments of gesture, tonality, and vocal technique in the performances, but not anywhere near enough to parse all of their interactions with the primarily chromatic score, although Fleur-de-Lis pointed out that the most heavily stylized, spoken register was associated with characters in their supernatural states, so that we hear it most often from the androgynous, chimeric Xiao Qing (Michael Maniaci), the green snake who is now half-woman and was once a man, from Madame White Snake (Ying Huang) as she moves in and out of the serpentine and from Abbot Fahai (Dong-Jian Gong) in his capacity as badass magician-priest, and possibly never from Xu Xian (Peter Tantsits), the human herbalist who becomes the White Snake's husband. The random dramaturgical shout-out is to the projections: they were used sometimes as backdrop and sometimes as a scrim and were never in danger of becoming a distraction, which I could not say about a similar effect in the Boston Lyric's Turn of the Screw. The random costuming shout-out is to the dress worn by Madame White Snake on either side of her transformation: ivory-colored, glittering in patches, it is torn in layers and trails behind her, so that in the first act it suggests the thousand-year-old snakeskin she sheds to become a woman, in the fourth the new woman's skin she is shucked from—strung now with warm blood—to become a snake again. The random cultural shout-out is the bilingual surtitles. The orchestration included dizi, xun, and erhu. And I loved how each act, being one of the four seasons, had its own prevailing color and a classical Chinese poem (sung in translation; the libretto is in English) as both scene-setting and epigraph. From this point on I'd just ramble. I'd wanted to see this opera since I first heard about it in 2008, and it was eminently worth waiting and organizing for—especially to see it with people with whom one could converse animatedly afterward. The weather wasn't even as appalling as the last two days have been. And thanks to Fleur-de-Lis, I now own The Manuscript Poems of A. E. Housman ed. Tom Burns Haber (1955), which is just awesome.

And then I came home and found that my poem "Candle for the Tetragrammaton" has been accepted by Sybil's Garage, so basically, tonight: success.

[identity profile] 2010-02-27 06:16 am (UTC)(link)
That rocked. I wish my glasses had been up to the surtitles; but the opera and the companies (on stage and beside me) were fabulous.

I'd always wanted to hear a great male soprano.


[identity profile] 2010-02-28 02:28 pm (UTC)(link)
I saw him at the Met and wasn't impressed, but maybe it was the size of the house/repertory at work.

[identity profile] 2010-02-27 07:01 am (UTC)(link)
I can remember stumbling upon an animated love story when I was a very small kid, under eight. When I was a grown-up, I searched for the film and discovered that it was the story of the white snake lady. I can remember her form drifting away from him, and his going on journeys to get the things needed to restore her to life. I loved that movie.

The opera version sounds gorgeous.

[identity profile] 2010-02-27 01:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, that version sounds much more hopeful than the version we saw! Can you give a title/year/etc?

Don't get me wrong-- the Opera Boston production was gorgeous, and any kind of happy ending would have seriously detracted from the grandeur and philosophy of it. (So good! All who can should see it!) But I find myself curious about other versions of the legend, and wanting to see/read more of them!

Panda and the Magic Serpent

[identity profile] 2010-02-27 01:48 pm (UTC)(link)
It was Japanese (though it did set the story in China) and made in 1958, so it was many years old even when I saw it. It was translated into English as Panda and the Magic Serpent. Here's a link: Hakujaden [Japanese for "Legend of the White Serpent"].


[identity profile] 2010-02-27 01:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I have only my childhood memories of this and no sense of what it would seem like as an adult. I remember a couple of scenes vividly, and I remember being entranced by it and thinking it was very beautiful. But, looking over the plot summary on the page I linked you to, I see that they've changed the story--added the whole animal plotline and a happy ending. So, although I think it could be interesting both as a classic anime and as an example of how a story is modified for children, it might not be entirely satisfying from an adult perspective...


[identity profile] 2010-02-27 01:57 pm (UTC)(link)
turns out it's the first-ever full-length color Japanese animated film. here is an interesting review. I might have to get a copy for old time's sake.

[identity profile] 2010-02-27 07:05 am (UTC)(link)
Sounds lovely. I'm glad you had a chance to see it.

And congratulations on the acceptance!
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

[personal profile] larryhammer 2010-02-27 04:17 pm (UTC)(link)
The Manuscript Poems of A. E. Housman

larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

[personal profile] larryhammer 2010-02-28 12:26 am (UTC)(link)
MOAR HOUSMAN would indeed be really cool. Even if he didn't see fit to publish them.


[identity profile] 2010-02-27 11:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Congratulations on the poem!