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Kunqu Opera Festival; Movie Review - "Australia"; "Re-animating" Mixed Media Exhibition; Male Soprano Jorg Waschinski (13 Jan 2009)


-- Due to copyright restriction, no online video is available for this episode. --

Chinese opera has several forms, but perhaps no other takes the art to such a degree of refinement as Kunqu or Kun Opera. A recent festival of its best-known pieces, organised by Taiwanese writer Pai Hsien-yung, highlighted its variety, and also introduced audiences to the sound of a 1,200 year old instrument. That instrument is a guqin, known as the "Jiuxiao Huanpei". It was made in the Tang dynasty and was used in the imperial court during the coronation of Tang Taizong's third son in 756 AD. One thing no-one will ever call Australian director Baz Luhrmann is "understated". As viewers of "Moulin Rouge" or his version of "Romeo and Juliet" will recall, he's a pull-out-all-the-stops, take-no-prisoners kind of director. As its title suggests, his most recent movie "Australia" takes on a big theme: the story of his homeland. It was, by many, eagerly awaited. It was also, by many, considered a disappointment when it arrived. Our film reviewer Gary Pollard wasn't that disappointed, but then he did not have particularly high hopes in the first place. "Re;animating" is a mixed-media installation exhibition at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei, and organised in collaboration with the City Festival. The exhibition echoes the rejuvenation of the old factory building into an arts centre. Eighteen local artists have been invited to create mixed-media installations. Their works are all made of industrial material such as plastics, thread, wood, fabric, wire, clay and metal. For centuries, some male musicians made what could be considered the ultimate sacrifice to achieve a purity of voice, undergoing castration to become the so-called castrati. Composers wrote music especially for singers to sing in the castrati range, which is – broadly - similar to that of a female mezzo-soprano. That rather extreme path to musical ability has long since become illegal – the last castrati was recorded at the turn of the 20th century - but the music remains. And much of it is now song by male singers who have undergone training specifically to develop the higher ranges of the voice. One of them, Jorg Waschinski, was performing at the City Hall on the day of our show. We caught up with him at rehearsals.

The Works
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
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