Sister Jiang- -
In 2002 at the invitation of the German World Art Festival, director Zhang Yuan presented the opera with Zhang Huoding in the title role as Jiang Jie at the Cologne Grand Theater - the first major presentation of a revolutionary opera in Europe. Zhang Yuan made a film version of the production in 2003.
Jiang Jie (Sister Jiang) is famous throughout China: the “Chinese Joan of Arc”, in the words of director Zhang Yuan, a communist heroine executed by the Kuomintang in 1949, on the eve of the revolution.
Zhang Yuan’s film, a passionately engaged tribute to the 1964 “revolutionary opera” based on Jiang Jie’s life, follows the original closely. Jiang Jie, 20 years old, was sent in 1949 by the Communist Party to Huayin Mountain, near Chongqing, Sichuan. On the way, she sees the remains of her husband, executed for his activism. Undeterred by his fate, she joins the anti-KMT guerrillas, only to be betrayed by erstwhile comrade Fu Zhigao. Jiang Jie allows herself to be captured, to protect her comrades. In prison, she defies her torturers and, on the very day that the People’s Republic of China is declared in Beijing, sacrifices herself to allow her companions to escape.
The Revolutionary melodrama plot, not that different from Verdi’s 19th century versions, has of course a completely different resonance today. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) enshrined this kind of “revolutionary opera” – based on traditional Beijing opera, but with substantial stylistic and formal revisions – as the epitome of Maoist propaganda art. In the past ten years, Chinese and Western experts have begun to re-evaluate the art behind the propaganda, to find creativity, and even shocking beauty under the layers of kitsch and repellent politics the works have sometimes embodied. What remains behind is a pure idealism, a yearning for a kind of unrealizable perfection whose political meaning is as vital today as it was 40 years ago. We invite you to enter director Zhang Yuan’s intensely recreated, re-vivified operatic experience. Submit to its pulsing, jangling rhythms, its eye-popping reds and blues, its startlingly authentic period flavour. Zhang Huoding, one of the most celebrated Beijing Opera singers today, incarnates Jiang Jie with a performance suffused with lyric beauty, subtle verbal pyrotechnics, and palpable nobility.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival