A word of warning, This scene rapresents serious violence on-stage, is not graphic but emotionally charged.
If you are new, here are the previous episodes:
Peace, the quiet of deep night, the tenor and the soprano murmuring to each other the private endearments of a couple in love, the flute serenading them while a screen at their back showed the translation of the English words in Chinese and Italian superimposed over the skyline of a Chinese city.
A dissonant thread in the reeds’ harmony, the wife is worried, the husband reassures her over the sweet notes of an oboe: “ What is it? Tell me, I’m here for you”, she shudders, hesitates, the flute’s theme trembling, then takes courage and sings: she is pregnant, but it isn’t allowed, they already have a child.
He is taken aback but happy, violins and cellos reprise the reeds’ melody “ There is a way, we could pay the fine, we are young, we can work, our families will help us”.
We, the audience, held in thrall by the music, watch the drama unfold. Almost unable to breathe, we see them working their fingers to the bone, borrowing, setting aside everything they can, until, with a full orchestra crescendo, the triumph comes, the fine is paid, the receipt stamped, no need to hide anymore.
But another melody worms its way in the threads of their joy, hidden, almost imperceptible at first, it spreads like a contagion, slowly the instruments in the orchestra pick it up, one by one, then the choir does too, the friendly voices of the neighbors growing faint, turning into cold, official sounding voices of political orthodoxy: “ Bad eggs”, they sing “ bourgeois reactionaries, enemies of the people”, I recognize the theme, a twisted rendition of The March of the Volunteers, the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. The crowd gets angrier. Something must be done, sings the leader of the neighborhood committee. They don’t need much urging, the kettledrums and cymbals underscore their march towards the couple’s flat, their fists pounding the door. The door crashes down, tenor and soprano try to make themselves heard, to explain, to show their hard-earned receipt. The angry choir drowns their voices as the drums and cymbal pound down the plaintive voices of oboe and flute, as, on the screen above the singers heads, a press of bodies blocks our view of the pregnant wife.
The percussions dim, as the choir slinks away; the light on stage go down as the lament of a lone flute becomes fainter and fainter, descending into silence and darkness.
The day after the newspapers said that the standing ovation lasted 18 minutes. When I turned to look, the royal box was empty.
'Bad egg' 坏蛋, my dictionary translates it as 'bastard' I've mostly encountered it in in a political context (for instance Ah Cheng was considered a 坏蛋 as the child of somebody politically unorthodox).
Hu Xiaowen's opera is fictional, but it is based on several facts, such things, although illegal keep happening in the PRC.
Next episode will be way lighter in tone, I promise! In the meanwhile have a great last day of 2012 and may 2013 be better than your hopes.