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The 7th Taishin Arts Award Performing Art Nomiee

Chiung-Chih LIAO, the Legendary Diva of the Taiwanese Opera and National Chinese Orchestra

National Chinese Orchestra performed "Chiung-Chih Liao, the Legendary Diva of the Taiwanese Opera and NCO" on November 2, 2008 at the National Concert Hall. NCO's Music Director Yi-Ren WEN and Director Chun-Fang TAI speak in depth about their Taishin-nominated work.

Music Director Yi-Ren WEN: In 2008, I humbly accepted the role of the music director for the National Chinese Orchestra (NCO). I decided to take NCO out of its conventional past to lead it to a brand new path. Yet, I needed to renovate Chinese music, specifically Taiwanese opera, to keep it modern and fresh without losing its wonderful tradition.

I've chosen to do a Taiwanese opera production. What can make Taiwanese drop whatever they are doing just to watch the performance of it? Yes, we've all grown up with Taiwanese opera that it is coursing in our veins. My initial concept was to create infinite possibilities for the future from the most familiar thing to the local audience.

Compared to Western opera, traditional Taiwanese opera has a weaker presentation on the element of music. It's the same issue with Peking Opera. They are generally referred to as the "drama in tunes," instead of the "tunes with drama," because both tend to focus more on the acting than on the music. In order to strike a balance between both the drama and the music, I apply the form of a "music drama." I asked the composer to rearrange traditional tunes, put in newly composed songs, and to increase the "volume" of music. After countless communications with the composer and the director, we finally reached a consensus. The result is a Taiwanese music drama as a holistic performing art, giving considerations to both visual and acoustic effects, instead of laying particular stress on one over the other.

Director Chun-Fang TAI: When I conceive a creation, a picture appears first, intuitively; then, I would rationally analyze it, and preserve it, if it is right. Once I am sure of the theme to be expressed by a work, I work, targeted, on the space-time configuration on the stage. Generally, I don't mull over configurations in a linear way, rather, I do it in a 3-D way, in which the elements are laid out, patched or contrasted, as in an architectural engineering. So, I describe my working process as "building a house." I expect my works to emanate a kind of 3-D, poetic atmosphere, not only to provide the audience room for interpreting freely, but also to make the performance on stage to breathe with real space-time during its delivery.

Chiung-Chih Liao, the Legendary Diva of the Taiwanese Opera and NCO emerged in my mind as an image that juxtaposed space and time: a 74-year-old Chiung-Chih LIAO combs her 20-year-old mother's hair, while this 20-year-old mother is combing young Chiung-Chih's hair. This picture contains the daughter's growth as well as the affection for her family member, as combing hair epitomizes the affection between mother and daughter: young Chiung-Chih longs for her mother's love, imagining her mother combing her hair; and old Chiung-Chih, in turn, combs her mother's hair, soothing her sadly early-deceased mother, as she has great persistent strength despite various hardship through her life.

This production is considered, by many, a multi-field work; however, due to the use, by transforming, of many abstract representational skills in operas, this work was able to obtain freedom throughout the jumping space-time scenes to become a fully integrated opera.

-----As told to Susan Kendzulak

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