Love, Undying and Otherwise

Spring has just begun to tease us with sunny interludes and the pink froth of cherry blossoms dotting the landscape. Maybe it's the rebirth metaphors that have begun sprouting as well, but right around now, even the most resolutely single types are tempted to shake their grumpy resolve and pair up with someone. That makes this a good time for romantic selections like Peony Pavilion, although the Chinese kun opera, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, has been "reimagined" somewhat by theatrical maverick Peter Sellars, who directs its American debut in Berkeley.

In the original, a young girl (Du Liniang, or Bridal Du) dreams of meeting her soulmate, and draws her self-portrait while she waits for him to arrive. When he doesn't, she dies of a broken heart, but then the young scholar Liu Mengmei (the very sort Du had in mind) stumbles upon the portrait, falls in love with its subject, and wills her back to life. In Sellars' multimedia vision, performed in colloquial and classical Chinese with English supertitles, the drama unfolds against a starkly modern set equipped with video and digital samplers. Composer Tan Dun, meanwhile, infuses his traditionally Chinese score, played on ages-old instruments, with Gregorian chants, rock, and Western orchestral music. Chinese opera star Madame Hua Wenyi joins a cast that also includes Broadway actress Lauren Tom (as Bridal Du). The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday (also 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $32-46; call (510) 642-9988.

-- Heather Wisner

 
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