You just can't keep a good Sixteenth Century Chinese opera down.
Last summer, the Lincoln Center Festival 98 lost its centerpiece, the Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion, to political intrigue, when the Chinese officials in Shanghai prevented the production from leaving China.
Shanghai holds no sway over American staging of the work, however. On Feb. 19 and 20, 1999, the China Institute and The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse will present the Kunqu Society's production of The Peony Pavilion at the Kaye Playhouse (68th St. and Lexington).
The staging will offer only nine of the work's 55 acts, with a narrative joining the different sections. The production will run three-and-one-half hours. Hua Wenyi and Yue Beiti will play the lead roles in the story of a love affair between a maiden and a young scholar that transcends the boundaries of dream and reality. Members of the Kunqu Society will join them on stage.
The Peony Pavilion was to have opened the 1998 Lincoln Center Festival. The production, however, was seized on June 18 by the Shanghai Bureau of Culture and its director, Ma Bomin, who criticized it as containing "feudal," "ignorant" and "pornographic" aspects. The show's costumes and sets were eventually released, but despite lengthy negotiations and several concessions on the part of the opera's director, Chen Shi-Zheng, Ma would not permit the cast to travel to New York and the production had to be canceled. For information on the Kaye Playhouse performances, call (212) 772 4448.
-- By Robert Simonson