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The Peony Pavilion

Qian Yi singing the lead role, Du LiNiang, in The Peony Pavilion
at the Festival d'Automne in Paris.

The Peony Pavilion

In 1999, Lincoln Center Festival staged an historic production of the classic Ming dynasty opera,
The Peony Pavilion (Mudan Ting). The 19-hour epic was staged in its entirety for the first time in over 200 years. Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Du Liniang, the cloistered daughter of a rural official, who dreams of a lover in a neglected garden and dies pining. Returning from the underworld, she is resurrected and ultimately united with the young scholar of her dream.

Critical acclaim for the production came from almost every corner and the production traveled internationally for five years.

Tang Xianzu, a contemporary of Shakespeare, wrote The Peony Pavilion, which is considered the preeminent work in the Kun Opera (Kunqu) repertoire. Kunqu is a classical court form of Chinese opera that predates and was a precursor to Peking Opera. With its melodious arias accompanied by string and wind instruments, Kunqu has many similarities with western Opera. The stage action, however, is much more theatrical, combining dance, music and poetry. In 2001, UNESCO proclaimed Kunqu to be one of the world’s most remarkable examples of the oral and intangible heritage.

In ancient times, Chinese operas were performed over a number of days. However, before Lincoln Center's production,
The Peony Pavilion was only being performed in excerpted episodes in modern China. As a result of the Lincoln Center production, many partial and complete productions of The Peony Pavilion have been performed in recent years.

Full video of The Peony Pavilion on
(For all 6 parts with subtitles and better viewing experience, use this link.)

The 19 hour epic lead by Qian Yi was seen and loved by audiences around the world.

Perfomance Schedule:
Lincoln Center Festival 1999
Festival d'Automne Paris 1999
Caen Festival 1999
Milan Art Festival 1999
Perth Music Festival 2000
Aarhus International Art Festival 2000
Berlin Music Festival 2002
Vienna Art Festival 2002
Singapore Biennial 2003
Spoleto Festival USA 2004

DVD of the performance was released by RM Associates in 2000.

In the New York Times Magazine, James Oestreich said "She is now China's
reigning opera princess, and in 'The Peony Pavilion' her talents are in full flower."

Acclaim for The Peony Pavilion

The New York Times Magazine
"Painting a Princess" by James Oestreich
"At 23, … she is now China's reigning opera princess, and in 'The Peony Pavilion' her talents are in full flower."

New York Magazine
Peter G. Davis
“Wen Yu Hang and Qian Yi …Perform with extraordinary discipline, a focused concentration that never threatens to falter for a moment throughout this huge epic. Their skill is awesome and their ferocious belief in the material is infectious.”

The Wall Street Journal
Heidi Wilson
“Her armory of gestures and expressions seems endless. And she uses them…to show the metamorphosis of her character.”

The New York Times
James Oestreich
“[A] radiant and energetic performance throughout the six segments.”

The Los Angeles Times
Mark Swed
“Qian Yi…is a radiant presence … and sings aria after aria after aria with heavenly poise.”

The New York Times
Bernard Holland
“She is a graceful charmer…The body is discreet but the eyes speak ambiguously of both innocence and knowingness.”

The Wall Street Journal
Sheila Melvin
“Thus has the 24 year old Ms. Qian come to captivate New York audiences…long standing ovations that have greeted her performances will undoubtedly be moments she will treasure forever.”

New York Post
Shirley Fleming
“Qian Yi, celebrated in China and the only one of the original cast to make it to the U.S. She is a sight to melt the heart.”

The Star-Ledger
Ken Smith
“Headed by the radiant actress Qian Yi from last year’s cast, the performers are uniformly devoted.”

Qian Yi as the ghost of Du Liniang in the Underworld.

USA Today
David Patrick Stearns
“Female lead Qian yi matched her rarified vocal grace with physicality that suggest weightlessness…Part 3 when she returns as a ghost has some of her most ethereal singing.”

Staten Island Advance
Michael J. Fressola
“A new star, the poised and beautiful young singer and actress Qian Yi ascended during the course of the evening and a powerful transformation occurred in the audience…In the West, singers don’t worry much about how they look when singing a demanding aria. Miss Yi, who is some sort of wide ranging soprano, can sing with power and nuance without disarranging her lovely smile.”

Justin Davidson
“The music – especially Du’s snaking aria sung by the slender siren voice of Qian Yi – had a tender allure.”

Shanghai Journal of Culture
"A Du Liniang Crosses Centuries", Reng Zhi Chu
"Qian Yi brings to life Du Liniang and revitalizes Tang Xianzu's 16th century masterpiece"

Eye one The Arts, Celia Ipiotis
“When she sang of her great loss, Qian Yi’s voice brought tears to my eyes. The lyrical sounds she exhaled were like the those private sighs and wails that stir one’s temples and extinguish all hope.”

The Village Voice
Kyle Gann
“The young heroine Du Liniang - spellbindingly sung by Qian Yi.”

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