While it had a hard enough time getting to New York City in the first place, The Peony Pavilion, the 16th Century Chinese Opera denied entrance to 1998's Lincoln Center Festival by the Shanghai Bureau of Culture, returns to the city in a one-hour, puppet-and-people version running Feb. 24-March 12 at HERE. Kuang-Fu Fong and Stephen Kaplin direct the piece, which officially opens Feb. 27.
This mounting takes Tang Xien Zu's 55-act, classical epic and shortens it to one hour, mixing human actors and musicians performing in traditional eastern styles with puppets crafted and manipulated in traditional western, toy theatre technique. Text from the original Kun Opera score will be sung with a narrative spoken in English.
Set in ancient China, The Peony Pavilion tells the story of a wealthy maiden who defies her family's choice for an arranged marriage to a young scholar about whom she has only dreamed. Her quest to find this mysterious man fills the action of the play, which, in its full incarnation, lasts 20 hours.
The 1999 Lincoln Center Festival, which ran July 7-25, was able to host the complete Peony Pavilion, where the opera played the La Guardia Concert Hall (65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue). The opera was staged in three cycles presented over the course of the festival, each cycle containing six episodes. Twenty actors played more than 160 roles with Chen Shi-Zheng directing.
This Pavillion requires much less, with puppeteers Fong, Kaplin and Richard Chang and musical accompaniment by Wu Zhongxi (flute), Liu Baogang (percussion) and Karen Wong (keyboards). Tickets are $12. HERE Arts Center is located at 145 Avenue of the Americas, one block south of Spring Street. For tickets, call (212) 647 0202.
--By Christine Ehren
and Robert Simonson