Author: Wang Guangyan
In 356 BC, Qin Xiaogong re-appointed Shang Yang and started a vigorous reform movement in the Qin State. Shang Yang used an iron fist to implement new laws and destroy the government. Although it was effective, it was strongly hindered by the aristocratic forces… The Beijing Peking Opera Theater’s new historical Peking opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang” will be re-staged this week. The play is based on the relationship between Shang Yang and Ying Si, telling their stories from being congenial, to understanding and cherishing each other, to being in the same boat, to a generous farewell and mutual success, writing a new footnote for the contemporary innovation of Peking Opera art.
New stills from the historical Peking Opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang”, with Fang Xu playing Ying Si and Qiu Shi playing Shang Yang.
Stills from the new historical Peking Opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang”, Wang Yingzheng plays Ying Si, Yu Xinze plays Shang Yang, Yu Shuai plays Ying Qian, and Bao Yan plays Gongsun Jia.
Repeatedly polishing to create a wonderful script
As a 2022 National Arts Fund-funded project, “Ying Si and Shang Yang” will premiere at the National Local Drama Performance Center on May 30 and 31 this year. Young screenwriter Zhao Shuo is the screenwriter, Li Qing, director of the Peking Opera Department of the Beijing Vocational College of Opera Arts and national first-level director, is the director, and famous opera musician Zhu Shaoyu is responsible for the singing design and composition. In this round of performances, “Ying Si and Shang Yang” has multiple upgrades, which will bring new surprises to the audience.
“The current script of “Ying Si and Shang Yang” is a version that was adjusted after three months of discussions by experts at several seminars.” Director Li Qing said that after upgrading and polishing, the play’s story content has become richer. The plot is more reasonable and further highlights the theme of people-centered and law-based governance. By creating characters that have never been shown in previous Peking Opera repertoires, such as Ying Si and Shang Yang, the opera celebrates the spirit of reform and innovation, the concept of governing the country according to law, and the heroes who have made great contributions to history.
In terms of character relationships, Qiuniang in the play was changed from a maid who admired and followed Shang Yang to Shang Yang’s wife and also Ying Si’s cousin. This made the relationship between the main characters in the play closer and the emotional portrayal more delicate. In the fifth scene “Remembering the Past”, after Shang Yang was tortured, Qiuniang wore white silk and asked to see Ying Si. On the one hand, Ying Si had childhood playfulness and old friendship with Qiuniang, but on the other hand, Ying Si had to punish her for the sake of the Qin Dynasty. Shang Yang, with the intertwining of different emotions, the plot is very exciting.
Stills from the new historical Peking Opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang”, with Wang Yingzheng playing Ying Si and Yu Xinze playing Shang Yang.
Stills from the newly compiled historical Peking Opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang”, Fang Xu plays Ying Si, Qiu Shi plays Shang Yang, Yu Shuai plays Ying Qian, and Bao Yan plays Gongsun Jia.
Outstanding young actors hone their acting skills
As a key play that focuses on cultivating outstanding young actors and promoting the inheritance and development of theater arts, especially the Qiu style painted face art, the play has many duets arranged, which is a great test of the actors’ singing skills. The main creator comprehensively considers the character’s profession, personality characteristics, emotional direction and other factors in the singing design. In terms of singing layout, there are Xipi, Erhuang, Guoban, Adagio, original board, loose board, flowing water, etc., with a complete range of vocal styles.
After several rounds of performance training, the young actors participating in the play have become more proficient in the basic skills of “singing, chanting, doing and beating” and understanding the characters’ inner thoughts. National first-class actor Fang Xu plays the role of “Ying Si”. He bluntly said that “Ying Si and Shang Yang” is the play with the most arias that he has performed. “During the performance, I borrowed some performances from film and television dramas to make the characters closer to life. At the same time, I focused on expressing my voice with emotion. I feel that I have greatly improved in performance and singing.” Outstanding young actor Qiu Shi played the role For the role of “Shang Yang”, he said that in this round of performances, Shang Yang’s lyrics changed more, and the emotions presented were more full and delicate. “Although the process of overthrowing and starting over every time is hard, it is also a process of self-improvement.”
“‘Ying Si and Shang Yang’ employed a large number of young actors and actresses, and I have witnessed the tremendous progress they have made.” Director Li Qing said that the actors’ improvement can be divided into three stages. “The first stage is when reading the script. The actors don’t know enough about the character they are playing, so they try to get into the character’s heart and ‘pretend’ to be this character; the second stage is when the actors have some insights and feel that ‘ I may be this character’; the third stage is now, they are fully immersed in the role, have confidence, and think ‘I am this character’. We have never seen Ying Si and Shang Yang more than two thousand years ago. Creating their images is a difficult problem faced by the creators, and it is precisely because of the hard work of the actors that they became ‘Ying Si’ and ‘Shang Yang’.”
Writing a new era of Chinese quintessence Peking Opera
In the process of creating “Ying Si and Shang Yang”, “respecting the ancient and not imitating the ancient” was a creed of the main creators. “We adhere to the traditional procedures of Peking Opera, but on the basis of this standard, we open up a free creative space, and this space is still very large.” Li Qing said, this requires outstanding young actors to have in-depth knowledge on the premise of having solid basic skills. Create independently in the world of the character. “Only with this kind of creative ability can young actors become true artists in the future.”
The play is also remarkable for its innovations in dance, music, and action choreography. Using the freehand techniques of traditional opera art, settings such as the New Deal frame monument, a table and two chairs, palace beams, and bronze tripods are set up according to the content of different scenes. Together with the arrangement of seal scripts and different scenes outlined with lines, it renders different periods, Character emotions and stage atmosphere in the environment. In addition, deputy director and stage manager Ji Liexiang introduced that in the latest version of “Yingsi and Shang Yang”, the prince Yingsi was severely caned to eighty for obstructing the implementation of the New Deal. The original execution was changed from being executed in person to being executed on stage. The action choreography Another point to watch.
“Beijing Peking Opera Troupe 1, as a member of the Beijing Peking Opera Company, this new play will give the audience a refreshing feeling, allowing everyone to see the level of young actors performing on the stage in line with the requirements of future Peking Opera artists. We look forward to the audience When you enter the theater to enjoy the performance, you also welcome criticism and suggestions so that we can achieve greater improvement,” Li Qing said. The new historical Peking Opera “Ying Si and Shang Yang” will be performed at Chang’an Grand Theater on November 9th and 10th, and at Beijing Daxing Theater on November 11th and 12th. (Wang Guangyan)