Headshot of La Cieca

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Monkey do

“Opening last night, the most buzzed-about show at the Lincoln Center Festival was inspired by a 16th-century Chinese folk tale of a sassy Monkey, who uses his magic powers and awesome kung fu skills to retrieve holy scriptures from India. The episodic plot’s not easy to follow, but it’s basically The Wizard of Oz, with Monkey and his ragtag companions off to see the Wizard — or, in this case, Buddha.” [New York Post]


  • Sanford says:

    La Cieca, I’m so sorry to have to go off topic with the first comment. Dell’arte Opera is doing L’Incoronazione di Poppea and Clemenza di Tito in August (I’m singing in the Clemenza) and they have a Kickstarter campaign going to help fund them. The campaign only has 4 days to go but is only half funded so we need some help. Here’s the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1913726983/smoldering-roman-operas-in-nyc-this-summer?ref=live

  • Jamie01 says:

    Back on topic, my daughter is a big Blur and Gorillaz fan, and bought tickets for this months ago. I think she expects that this may be a lot different from Damon Albarn’s pop ventures, but if it’s too similar to the operas I’ve dragged her to, she won’t be happy.

    • goodbyeflorence says:

      It definitely still sounds like Albarn, but it’s slightly more experimental (and in Chinese). I haven’t actually seen Monkey myself, but I know the piece quite well. My impression is that it’s a little bit more ballet than opera. It’s veeeeery different than any typical opera. Has she looked at Dr. Dee at all? That’s my favorite Albarn opera. And this documentary about the original creation/production of Monkey is well worth a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3qjVJuzdyAc

    • m. croche says:

      A more traditional take on “Monkey Wrecking Heaven”, performed inside an old-fashioned tea-house.

  • Sanford says:

    Back to Monkey…the whole thing sounds like it should have been/was an animated movie.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    Thrilled to see that JJ is helping to incorporate the word “badass”--first used AFAIK by Justin Davidson in re Deborah Voigt’s Brünnhilde--into the operatic critical vocabulary.

  • m. croche says:

    “an East-meets-West collaboration between the men behind alt-rock’s Gorillaz and the Chinese composer of “Peony Pavilion” — is a barrel of fun.”

    Chen Shi-Zheng was not the composer of The Peony Pavilion, he was its director. The tunes for the opera were originally selected by its author Tang Xianzu in 1598, and then passed along through generations of performers (some of whom occasionally wrote down their versions of it) down to the present day. Chen Shi-Zheng’s contribution was to oversee the production of a complete, 55-act Peony Pavilion, the first in centuries. Typically in such undertakings there will be people on hand to edit the libretto (edit scenes, change obscure words to something more recognizable), someone who is in charge of how the melodies are sung, someone who is in charge of the “orchestration” of the accompanying instrumental ensemble.

    I am not intimately familiar with this production, since the full 6-part edition has never been released on video, but I’m pretty certain that Chen Shi-Zheng (no singer of kunqu and no composer) made his contribution through stage design, directing and as impresario.

    Also: the principal purpose for the Monkey King to journey to the West with the Tang Priest, the Pig Zhu Bajie and the Ogre is to retrieve the scriptures from India, not to meet the Buddha. Monkey King already met the Buddha after wrecking heaven. The Buddha imprisoned him under Five-Finger Mountain for centuries, and Monkey King was only released on condition that he help the others go to Indian to fetch the scriptures.