Wu Hsing Kuo

When Beijing Opera meets Beckett (Taipei)

Wu Hsing-kuo and the Contemporary Legend Theatre

Known for his roles in Asian films, including Jacky Chan and Gong Li, Wu Hsingkuo is a complete artist: trained in Beijing Operas, awarded many times, he is not only actor on stage and screen but also a dancer. In Taiwan, in 1986 he founded the Legend Comtemporary Theatre to respond to the decline of the classical Chinese opera and to therefor to modernize it: He first began to break with convention by borrowing elements of the western techniques. Gaining international recognition, it appeared to him that the Chinese opera, with its so unique style combining singing, recitation, performances and acrobatics had something important to give, to share with the rest of the world. It would take a « two-way » between tradition and vanguard, China and the West. His research led him to tap into all forms of repertory, to take advantage of his mastery in traditional techniques, while inserting in his staging special effects and references to contemporary cinema. Guests in the biggest international festivals, he has triumphed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York with The First Emperor, with Placido Domingo. He mounted “En attendant Godot”of Samuel Beckett which received in Taipeï the award for best directing. The director Walter Asmus (who worked with Samuel Beckett for years), said he was impressed by the poetry and theatrical beauty of this show that has come to him as « decode Beckett. »
Wu Xingkuo for the Contemporary Legend Theater, which differs from traditional troops, the techniques known as Beijing opera are the starting point of his quest for a new stage form. Wu Hsing-kuo asserts that « the destruction and abandonment enable innovation, and that innovation allows transmission: to pass to the next generation the spirit of Beijing Opera, we must constantly reinvent it. » Wu Hsing-kuo entered the National Academy of Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts at the age of 11 years old. He studied there for eight years, and won leading roles in the school troop at the age of 16. After graduating from the Academy, he enrolled at the University of Chinese Culture in Taipei. He was later hired by Lin Hwai-min, founder of Cloud Gate. The trips that he undertook with the troops overseas, and films, the shows he saw there helped him to form his vision. In 1984, he began work on the draft of a new opera style, that he located in the distant past in order to mix different cultural elements without bothering conventions. It was the only way, he said, to bring the opera to a younger audience. He took a piece of the Western classical theater repertoire, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as a starting point and, with some friends worked on his adaptation. After three years, they finally presented Le Royaume du Désir which was performed in 26 cities around the world – the Royal National Theatre in London, at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, in several cities in Japan, Odin Theatret of Holstebro in Denmark, or at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, USA. Encouraged by this success, Wu Hsing-kuo continued in the same vein with War and Eternity (adapted from Hamlet) in 1990, Le Roi Lear and La Tempête respectively in 2000 and 2004. Without limiting himself to Shakespeare, he was also inspired by Greek tragedy Medea by Euripides in 1993 and The Oresteia by Aeschylus in 1995. He has also adapted the classic pieces of Beijing Opera (The last days of Emperor Li Yu’s and the Hidden Concubine). He created two hip operas, including The play of Brother and Sister in 2002.