Sunday, October 13, 2013

[Music] Cantonese Opera -- Princess Changping (part of Act 8)

Album Covers for Princess Changping

1. An uploader in YouTube remarked that "[t]his is probably the most well-known excerpt from the most-watched Cantonese Opera in the world."

I concur.

I suspect there will be instant recognition if you hum a few bars of this excerpt to a Cantonese Chinese anywhere in the world.

2. The Chinese title of this Cantonese Opera is "帝女花".

"帝" = Emperor.

"女" = Daughter.

"花" = Flower.

The "Emperor's daughter" refers to in the title is Princess Changping (1629 - 1646), a daughter of the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) -- Emperor Chongzhen (1611 - 1644).

The current edition of this Cantonese opera is consisted of 8 Acts:

Act 1 -- Oath Under the Twins Tree ("樹盟")

Act 2 -- Princess' Sufferings ("香劫")

Act 3 -- Bearing For Princess' Dead Body ("乞屍")

Act 4 -- Reunion at the Nunnery ("庵遇")

Act 5 -- Recognizing each other ("相認")

Act 6 -- Welcome Princess ("迎鳳")

Act 7 -- Negotiating with the Qing Emperor ("上表")

Act 8 -- The Fragrant Death ("香夭")

The video excerpt is from the latter part of Act 8 -- The Fragrant Death.

3. All Cantonese operas tell stories.

The opera Princess Changping tells the tragic love story of Princess Changping which happened during the last days of the Ming Dynasty.

The story as told by this opera has some historical but many fictional elements.

In the opera, Princess Changping has already chosen her husband and was about to be married when the Qing invader entered the capital Beijing.

Her husband-to-be was Zhou Shixian.

In Act 8 of this opera, Emperor Chongzhen has already committed suicide and Princess Changping and Zhou Shixian also determined to follow suit.

But she intended to do so only after negotiating with the new Qing Emperor for the proper burial of her father and the safety of the Crown Prince.

The new Qing Emperor, unaware of Princess Changping and Zhou Shixian's intention to commit suicide, arranged for them to be married.

The scene in the video excerpt was when Princess Changping and Zhou Shixian committed suicide by drinking poison during their marriage ceremony.

4. This video excerpt is re-mastered from the 1959 film version of the opera:

The English subtitle is quite well done.

Princess Changping was portrayed by Bak Suet-Sin (female) and Zhou Shixian by Yum Kim-Fai (also female).

They were the original singers of this opera.

In Hong Kong, Yum Kim-Fai and Bak Suet-Sin are popularly known together as Yum / Bak.

This particular video excerpt has achieved legendary status and is considered a must see for any fans of Cantonese culture.

5. Another version of the same film clip:

6. A performance by Yum / Bak in 1972 for a TV fundraiser after a landslide disaster in Hong Kong:

The landslide disaster due to heavy rainfall happened on June 18 and the TV fundraiser was on June 24.

Many well-known Hong Kong performers appeared in this TV fundraiser, including Bruce Lee.

I actually have some memories of watching this performance on TV when it was broadcast live in 1972.

That was over 40 years ago!

If I remembered correctly, many performers only received notification in the afternoon and then they have to appear on TV the same night.

So do excuse Yum / Bak just standing there singing without any appropriate costumes.

Also, according to a YouTube comment, Yum Kim-Fai was running a high-fever during the performance.

So please also excuse her singing from the lyrics book during the performance.

7. A cover by the students of Yum / Bak in the 1976 film version of the opera:

Princess Changping was portrayed by Mui Suet-See (female) and Zhou Shixian by Loong Kim-Sang (also female).

Mui Suet-See and Loong Kim-Sang were students of Yum / Bak.

This 1976 film was directed by John Woo whom also directed, among others, Mission Impossible II (2000) starring Tom Cruise.

8. Other covers by Mui Suet-See and Loong Kim-Sang:

9. A new interpretation by Mui Suet-See and Loong Kim-Sang in 2006:

10. A cover by Mui Suet-See and Connie Chan:

Princess Changping was portrayed by Mui Suet-See (female) and Zhou Shixian by Connie Chan (also female).

Connie Chan was one of the Seven Princesses of Hong Kong cinemas.

She was also a student of Bak Suet-Sin.

11. A cover by Liza Wang and Adam Cheng in 2011:

Liza Wang has Cantonese opera training and Adam Cheng's voice is very well suited for Cantonese opera.

The music arrangement was by Kitaro (Masanori Takahashi). .

12. A cover by Liza Wang and Leslie Cheung:

Yum Kim-Fai passed away in 1989.

This performance in 1999 was for a TV program commemorating her 10th anniversary.

13. Both Susan Tse and Wen Qian-sui are professional Cantonese opera singers:

But their performance seems to lack emotional engagement.

14. A cover by Joyce Koi and Steven Ma:

Although Joyce Koi is also an actress, her background is in Cantonese opera.

Steven Ma is an actor whom also sings a bit on the side, but his singing of this Cantonese opera is an F (fail).

15. A cover by Donald Cheung and Amy Hu:

16. A cover by Jackson Wan and Cheung Mei-Lam:

17. A 2009 cover by Lau Wai-Ming and Li Shuqin:

Princess Changping was portrayed by Li Shuqin (female) and Zhou Shixian by Lau Wai-Ming (also female).

18. This live performance by Lau Wai-Ming and Li Shuqin is quite impressive:

19. This is just the music:

20. The Lyrics in Traditional Chinese:

帝女花之香夭 -- 任劍輝 & 白雪仙





【生】不須侍女伴身旁,下去 。




























21. The Lyrics in Simplified Chinese:

帝女花之香夭 -- 任剑辉 & 白雪仙

































22. Names, Words and Phrases:

Adam Cheng (Traditional Chinese: 鄭少秋; Simplified Chinese: 郑少秋).

Amy Hu (Traditional: 胡美儀; Simplified: 胡美仪).

Bak Suet-Sin (Traditional: 白雪仙; Simplified: 白雪仙).

Cantonese Opera (Traditional: 粵曲; Simplified: 粤曲).

Cheung Mei-Lam (Traditional: 張美琳; Simplified: 张美琳).

Connie Chan (Traditional: 陳寶珠; Simplified: 陈宝珠).

Donald Cheung (張偉文; Simplified: 张伟文).

Emperor Chongzhen (Traditional: 崇禎皇帝; Simplified: 崇祯皇帝).

Jackson Wan (Traditional: 尹光; Simplified: 尹光).

John Woo (Traditional: 吳宇森; Simplified: 吴宇森).

Joyce Koi (Traditional: 蓋鳴暉; Simplified: 盖鸣晖).

Kitaro (Traditional: 喜多郎; Simplified: 喜多郎).

Lau Wai-Ming (Traditional: 劉惠鳴; Simplified: 刘惠鸣).

Leslie Cheung (Traditional: 張國榮; Simplified: 张国荣).

Li Shuqin (Traditional: 李淑勤; Simplified: 李淑勤).

Liza Wang (Traditional: 汪明荃; Simplified: 汪明荃).

Loong Kim-Sang (Traditional: 龍劍笙; Simplified: 龙剑笙).

Masanori Takahashi (Traditional: 高橋正則; Simplified: 高桥正则).

Mui Suet-See (Traditional: 梅雪詩; Simplified: 梅雪诗).

Princess Changping (person) (Traditional: 長平公主; Simplified: 长平公主).

Princess Changping (opera title) (Traditional: 帝女花; Simplified: 帝女花).

Qing (Traditional: 清; Simplified: 清).

Steven Ma (Traditional: 馬浚偉; Simplified: 马浚伟).

Susan Tse (Traditional: 謝雪心; Simplified: 谢雪心).

Wen Qian-sui (Traditional: 文千歲; Simplified: 文千岁).

Yum Kim-Fai (Traditional: 任劍輝; Simplified: 任剑辉).

Zhou Shixian (Traditional: 周世顯; Simplified: 周世显).


"Chongzhen Emperor", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"Princess Changping", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"崇禎帝", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"長平公主", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"帝女花", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"唐滌生", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"任劍輝", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).

"白雪仙", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2013-10-13).