After performing dates in Liverpool and London, the China National Peking Opera Company took their final bow to much deserved applause from the U.K. audience on Nov. 22, 2015.
Warrior Women of Yang [Photo / China.org.cn]
Visiting the U.K. for the first time in a decade, the company performed Peking Opera classics "Farewell My Concubine" and "Warrior Women of Yang," giving a stirring performance of the latter for their finale in Sadler's Wells theatre.
Set in the Song era, "Warrior Women of Yang" centers on the aristocratic Yang family and their vengeance against the Xia state for killing the men of the Yang family. Bereft of their husbands, sons, and brothers, the brave Yang women and their powerful hundred-year-old matriarch Taijun ride out to meet the Xia ruler on the battlefield. The second act follows these warrior women over mountains and through valleys in search of revenge, a revenge that plays out in such a pleasing visual spectacle that one forgets one cannot understand the words being sung, which the English subtitles provided the meaning of.
The nuanced language and singing style of Peking Opera might seem inaccessible to western audiences and Mandarin speaking audiences alike but there is something for all audiences in this production. The strong female leads, the array of brightly brocaded costumes, and the acrobatics and choreographed battle scenes make this opera an entertaining spectacle.
Guo Yaoyao's portrayal of the Yang matriarch, She Taijiun, is full of the energy, sagaciousness, and resolve that befit a strong female character. The acting is, however, a sideline to the spectacle of Peking Opera.
Mime, singing, acrobatics, and a brilliant and bright wardrobe left the audience clapping at every very literal turn of an acrobat through the air, and at every flourish of brightly colored silk flowing through the air with every acrobatic maneuver. Following these energetic battle scenes the Chinese audiences were quick to use the Chinese opera norm of shouting out their admiration, while the non-Chinese counterparts were equally quick to approve with loud applause.
Based on the large and varied audience, it is safe to say that London and the U.K. would welcome the China National Peking Opera Company back to these shores sooner rather than later.