Oct 15, 2005 8:19 pm
Chinese Opera is very different from Italian opera and also much older.
There is an excellent video of excerpts from a 1999 Lincoln Center performance of The Dream of the Peony Pavilion. I would not worry about watching the abridged version, even with all the cuts it is still around 2-3 hours long.
The original has 200 arias, 400 additional musical numbers, and takes around 20 hours to perform over several days. The “prima donna” is in almost every other scene (there are 55) so imagine how hard it is prepare for a performance. As a result it is unlikely there will ever be another complete performance.
This version is a really good introduction. The story is good enough to help you overcome the strangeness (to Westerners) of Chinese Opera conventions. The costumes are amazing.
About the story:
The Peony Pavilion was written by Tang Xianzu in the late 16th Century. I am currently reading The Romance of the Western Chamber which was written around 1300. I think the tradition dates as far back as the Han Dynasty 206 BC to 220 AD. Here is a good description: