"Shan Hai" musical covered by national media
Word of A Tale of Shan Hai Jing (山海經傳), a rock musical put on by National Taiwan Normal University and Gao Xingjian (高行健), a Nobel Prize winner, spread throughout Taiwan this week after the show's dress rehearsal proved a hit.
The driving creative force behind the project, Chinese national Gao praised the performance as 'vast and epic, emotional and bedazzling.' The musical is based on the classic text Shanhaijing (山海經) literally, 'Classic of Mountains and Seas'), an ancient collection of Chinese myths, folklore, and geographic details. The show is running from June 28 to June 30 at the National Theater.
Gao, who now resides in France, explained some of his motivations in an interview with the Taipei-based China Times. 'I was a member of a chorus in university,' Gao said, 'and I played the violin and erhu (二胡),' referring to a stringed traditional instrument. These experienced pushed him to adapt Shan Hai into a musical performance.
The play was planned around a rock music score from the very beginning. Gao had originally wanted a tale strung together by a storyteller role, but quickly realized that this sort of role is largely gone from today's stories. Instead, he decided to use rock music as the glue holding the different parts of the play together.
'Rock musicians can speak to us and they can sing. They're like the storytellers of today,' he said.
In a separate interview with PTV, Gao said he also hopes that by combining modern music with classic tales, he can attract young people to learn more about their traditional culture.
'People don't really understand classic legends any more. The face we've put on this legend isn't the usual one because when [the actor]s sing, it needs to be understandable, and rock music is the medium closest to regular speech, closest to the general public,' he explained.
A few days earlier, NTNU President Chang Kuoen (張國恩) spoke about the project at a Monday conference.
'National Taiwan Normal University has always been the paradigm of training and education, the highest standard of character development,' Chang said, 'And now, we're going to show Taiwan, the Chinese-speakers everywhere, and the rest of the world a new generation of Chinese mythology by breaking through moral frameworks with rock music.'