Run time: Approx. 1 hr 15 mins with no interval
Language: Putonghua | Surtitle: Chinese / English
Produced and directed by renowned Hong Kong opera director Lo King-man, with music by Lo Hau-man, lyrics by Chris Shum and scenario script by Mandu Cheung, The Legend of Zhang Baozai artistically presents Hong Kong’s history in the form of an opera through the life of Zhang Baozai from his youth through his twilight years. Invited by the HKSAR government to perform at Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the production was the only opera staged at the Expo. It was later staged in Hong Kong during the same year and achieved unprecedented success. Lo Hau-man and Chris Shum won the Best Serious Composition at the “2011 CASH Golden Sail Music Awards”.
The Legend of Zhang Baozai mainly depicts the story of Zhang Baozai before he surrendered to the Qing government. It was created based on the official documentation History of the Pirates Who Infested the China Sea from 1807 to 1810 and imagination of worldly affairs and human emotions. The opera does not place an emphasis on pirates and heroes, nor does it crown any glory on the Qing government. Instead, it returns to the basics and simulates the feelings and thoughts of Zhang Baozai as a person at a particular point of time. The story took place during the period when Hong Kong was transitioning from a laid back fishing village to a prosperous metropolitan. As such,The Legend of Zhang Baozai is not only a story about the legendary Zhang but also a narrative of the back stories of Hong Kong’s heritage and custom. The seven-scene opera with 100% original music and dance is packed with Chinese traditions passed down locally. These include the lantern festival of the 15th day of Chinese New Year, puppetry of Cantonese opera, Cheung Chau’s Bun Festival (Tai Ping Ching Chiu), fire dragon dance of Mid-Autumn Festival, etc. The opera is performed in Putonghua with Chinese and English subtitles.
Having escorted the coffin of his beloved Madam Shi back home, Zhang Baozai could not help but lament over how immensely things have changed in his hometown. Only the scenery looks familiar to him.
In the twelfth year of Qing Jiaqing (1807), Zheng Yi, leader of the Red Flag Pirates, was drowned at sea during a typhoon. His wife, Madam Shi stepped in and led the gang. One year later, Shi wants to abdicate her position and make either Zhange Baozai or Master Xiao her successor. She performs a divination, and Zhang turns out to be the chosen one. Although Zhang feels inadequate due to his lack of experience, Shi believes in Zhang’s ability as well as the result of the divination. Zhang reveals his love for Shi, and their relationship becomes rather ambiguous. With Shi’s assistance, Zhang gradually replaces Zheng Yi, leading the Red Flag Pirates
In the residence of Admiral Sun in Fujian, Lady Duanmu is preparing Chinese herbal medicine for her husband, who constantly devotes all his time and energy to serve the Court. Her father, a Chinese herbal doctor, died in prison years ago for healing Madam Shi. Admiral Sun has received an order from the Governor of Guangzhou, Bai Ling, to exterminate the Red Flag Pirates. Lady Duanmu suggests him convincing Zhang Baozai to capitulate. And she is willing to go with him and share his burdens.
The army provisions are ready by the time of the Lantern Festival. Lady Duanmu and Admiral Sun are watching puppetry in front of a temple in Foshan. As the show approaches its climax, all of a sudden they find themselves surrounded by Zhang Baozai and his gangs. Master Xiao wants to execute the two, but Madam Shi opposes as she knows that the Admiral is one of the few in the Court who is loyal to the country. Desperate to save her husband, Lady Duanmu tells Shi about her father, and offers herself as the hostage to heal Shi.
In the fourteenth year of Qing Jiaqing, leader of the Black Flag Pirates finally surrendered, leaving the Red Flag Pirates to fight on their own. Although Master Xiao tries to reorganize his troops, they are already surrounded by Admiral Sun’s army, and are induced to capitulate. Zhang Baozai refuses, preparing to be executed. However, he releases Lady Duanmu first, who has been treated well during her captivity. Grateful to Zhang, Sun spares Zhang his life, and Zhang stopped Master Xiao from launching another attack in return. The two ladies bid farewell to each other, and both men show respect for one another.
Frustrated by the precarious lives of pirates, Madam Shi and Zhang Baozai are considering capitulation. Lady Duanmu comes and tells them that Admiral Sun is arrested for liberating the pirates, hoping they can rescue him. Infuriated, Shi wants to raid the prison to save Sun, but Zhang worries that they will ruin Sun’s future in doing so. He decides to offer Governor Bai Ling a deal: the Red Flag Pirates will surrender if the credit for their capitulation goes to Sun. Master Xiao disapproves of his decision and leaves with unsettled grievance, never to see them again.
An imperial edict is transmitted to them by Governor Bai Ling: Sun is reappointed the Admiral of Fujian for his meritorious contribution to the security of the South China Coast. The Emperor appoints Zhang Baozai as navy commander of Penghu and confers the name Zhang Bao on him. By the time the dance of the Dragon begins, all the pirates have repented and the ocean is now safe.
Feeling melancholy, Zhang recalls his life at the Chek Lap Kok beachhead while scattering Shi’s ashes into the sea.
¹ 27/4 | ² 28/4
Arts Experience Scheme for Senior Secondary Students
The Charm of Performing Arts
The arts bring to students experiences that connect life inside and outside the campus.
When textual narrative turns into live performance, lines, movements, lightings and shades on stage cast a spell of charm on the audience. This magical power created by stage performance calls for rumination and reflection, leaving the audience with sentiments of gratification when the curtain falls.
In fact, these arts groups don’t just perform. Their artists will also move downstage to share their creative process as well as the concept and structure of their works at pre/post-performance discussions and workshops, and share with participants on a wide range of topics from the history of drama to the symbolic meaning of a certain prop. These extension activities will reveal to students the flow of stage production and the many facets of performing arts.
Live performance exudes unparalleled charm in the eye of the audience, and gives artists a sense of fulfillment when they engage their audience and receive their warm applause. We believe that engaging in performing arts will bring enlightening experiences to audience and performers alike, and make them more understanding towards others and curious about life. We therefore look forward to the continuous support of principals and teachers to the Scheme. Let’s work together to enrich the arts experience of students and nurture young theatregoers.
* Since Audience Building Office (AB Office) under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD)’s inception in the 2009/10 academic year, the Arts Experience Scheme for Senior Secondary Students by has been providing Other Learning Experiences in Aesthetic Development under the New Senior Secondary School Curriculum and encouraging personal visits to professional performing venues as well as immersion in the arts for enrichment of learning experience.
* Acknowledgement: The Arts Experience Scheme for Senior Secondary Students is supported by the Education Bureau.