Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ju Percussion drumming up new excitement about “Mulan” with Guoguang Opera Company

By Nancy T. Lu

"Mulan” in the hands of creative and innovative Taiwanese artists promises never a dull moment. The story of the legendary heroine who disguises herself as a male and replaces her aging and ailing father, reporting to the battlefront in answer to the Chinese Emperor’s call to war of defense against the invading Huns, has been told frequently on the Chinese opera stage. But the Ju Percussion Group is drumming up this time new excitement about this familiar tale of the daughter celebrated for her filial piety in a crossover collaboration production with the Guoguang Opera Company at the National Theater in Taipei on May 21, 22 and 23.

Get ready for a spectacular mix of tap dance, Beijing opera and, of course, percussion music on a multi-level theater stage. Even the orchestra pit is put to use. Excellent percussionists are pounding out heady beats on traditional Chinese drums from there.

Composer Hung Chien-hui has rewritten entirely the music for the 90-minute opera performance, making percussion instruments dramatically speak out the moods and emotions as the scenario unfolds. A total of 20 musicians from Ju Percussion Group and Ju Percussion 2 are prepared to strike out the upbeat tell-tale rhythmic notes on a range of musical instruments, including wooden boxes, tin cans and bottles, with score sheets all taken out of sight.

Creative costume design by Chen Wan-li draws inspiration and taps elements from traditional Chinese papercut. Laser technology helps realize the intricate design patterns.

Mulan must shift from simple country lass to brave male warrior in the plot. Gender roles require defining through the wardrobe differences put in the spotlight. The square shape is reserved generally for the male and the round form ties in with the female look. The male wears cold and subdued shades while the female gets dressed in warm and attention-getting hues. Twenty-eight different costumes complete with headgears and accessories have been created for the entire cast. Percussionists, too, unravel different faces of Mulan through their designed looks. Austronesian tribal influences lend interesting shapes and details to the whole wardrobe, too.

For ticket information, call tel. (02)3393-9888.

All pictures were taken by Nancy T. Lu during a dress rehearsal.

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