《临川四梦》之《邯郸记》 Four Dreams in the Camillia Hall – The Tale of Handan by Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe 上海昆剧团
The down-and-out scholar Lu Sheng dreams of a life of fortune, power and women. He encounters the immortal Lu Dongbin who gifts him a porcelain pillow. That night, as Lu laid his head on the pillow, he dreams of becoming a top scholar and was married to a beautiful woman. In the dream, Lu experiences 50 years of highs and lows of fame as a high-ranking official, only to wake up to the stark reality that the yellow millet porridge that had been simmering away in a nearby shop before he fell asleep was still not cooked. He had crested heights of achievement and fallen from grace only in his dreams. Enlightened, Lu decides to follow the immortal Lu Dongbin and no longer covets worldly desires.
Capturing the seamy side of officialdom in a feudal society, Tang Xianzu wrote the play a year after he retired as an official and returned to his hometown. The Tale of Handan is often regarded as the most remarkable literary masterpieces amongst the Four Dreams.
Cast: Zhang Wei Wei, Chen Li
About Four Dreams in the Camillia Hall
For every Kunqu performer, it is a dream to be a part of Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall. Written by influential Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu, it is a collection of four outstanding classic operas regarded for its culture value and philosophical thoughts. Author Wang Siren, Tang’s contemporary, summarised the collection as chivalry (A Pair of Purple Hairpins), love (The Peony Pavilion), Buddhist meditation (A Dream Under the Southern Bough) and immortality (The Tale of Handan). These four dreams are the crystallisation of Tang’s experiences, insights and artistry, and have long been regarded as the benchmark of excellence for Kunqu works. Four centuries later, the incomparable brilliance of these Four Dreams still shines bright.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Tang Xianzu’s passing in 2016, Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe began touring performances of Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall to various parts of the world. The performances were well-received regionally and internationally in major Chinese cities, as well as in USA, Czech Republic and Belgium.
The Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe believes in respecting and revering tradition and is dedicated to the continuation and promotion of Kunqu. This is the spirit which the troupe adopted in their approach towards the production of the Four Dreams. A dream unfolds each evening, and over the course of four nights, the troupe weaves a cohesive experience for audiences through imaginative staging that brings alive the literary beauty of Tang’s words and the aesthetic essence of Kunqu.
These works are performed by opera icons as well as younger performers who are given the opportunity to share the stage with Kunqu masters. The result is an elegant expression of Kunqu that is both precise and nuanced — a worthy homage to one of the oldest opera genres in the world.