Essay on Kunqu Opera from the Peony Pavilion

Essay on Kunqu Opera from the Peony Pavilion

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On March 17th, 2014 the department of music at Hunter College hosted a recital of Qing Yi Arias from The Peony Pavilion, a Kunqu Opera. Kunqu Opera is a form of Chinese musical drama consisting of three components that work concurrently and in synchronization. The Qing Yi Arias adheres to these principles and is successful in executing them. The recital was composed of three performers, Ms. Yang Ling as Qing Yi, a virtuous and noble woman, Mr. Chen Tao on Kundi, a bamboo flute and Mr. Huang Shi-Rong on percussion. This performance in particular featured two scenes from the Peony Pavilion, “Stroll in the Garden” and “Interrupted Dream”. They draw from traditional Chinese culture incorporating three fundamental elements music, words and dance which work in unison delivering meaning and purpose.
Music is a very important component of Kunqu opera as it serves as the foundation of a performance. The musical construction of plays such as the Peony Pavilion correlates very closely with the Chinese tonal language. According to the Wintergreen Kunqu Society, “Since Chinese is a tonal language, there is a delicate relation between words and tunes. Every word has a "melody", and the musical air must be superimposed on the word melody, without interfering with it” (Wintergreen Society). The music from the performance I observed indeed blended with the singer, Qing Yi, it didn’t overshadow her vocals but rather accompanied it. This musical form of Kunqu was established by Tang Xianzu, he introduced Kunqu Theater during the Ming Dynasty the time period in which he lived (Wintergreen Society). Kunqu today has evolved and developed over the years. Professor Hans H. Frankel of Yale University states that “Wei Liangfu and his collaborators standard...

... middle of paper ...

...such an historical art form presented in your place of study by talented actors/actress and musicians. I believe they were astonishing in preserving an artwork that has been around for years staying in strict accordance to rules and its fundamentals. I believe the rest of the audience will agree that though it was a different experience for most of us it’s a performance one can never forget.

Works Cited

1. (2007 Mar. 02). The Peony Pavilion. Retrieved from
2. (2007 Jan. 17). What Is Special In Kunqu Theater. Retrieved from
3. Frankel, Hans H.(2011-14) The Kunqu Theater. Retrieved from
4. Wintergreen Kunqu Society. n.d. What is Kunqu Theatre? Retrieved from

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