Predestined Relationship Hard To Come By

Wang An-chi Professor National Tsinghua University

June 1, 1985 is quite a meaningful date to me. On that afternoon I had just gone through the oral examination for a Taiwan University doctoral dissertation. On that night, Miss Kuo Hsiao-chuang came to my house carrying a script that was not yet finalized. This was the beginning of my collaboration with Hsiao-chuang. Before that I had only seen her on stage.

The opera was "Liu Lan-chih and Chao Tsung-ching". Originally Professor Yang Hsiang-shih was invited to write the script. However, before the script writing was completed, Professor Yang became seriously ill and could not finish it. Since the structure had already been decided, the work I had to continue was mainly writing the lyrics. The situation was not too complicated. However, during this period of work, I had really "witnessed" Hsiao-chuang's immersion and zeal in opera. That night, once I agreed to accept the task, Hsiao-chuang at once requested me to enter into a working state, without regard to the fact that it was late at night, without regard to the fact that we only met for the first time, without a word of polite conversation, doing away with all socializing she went straight into my study, directly took out the long poem "Peacocks Flying Southeast" to discuss it line by line with me, not letting go of a single detail, wanting to explore time and again into any place where Liu Lan-chih had an emotional reaction. She even turned into Lan-chih right away: sighing, enduring, helpless, sorrowful, a whole range of emotions showing one by one in her facial and voice expressions. It took a total of 3 hours for her to "perform" this long poem thoroughly once.

I was very surprised. With less than 3 months to the show, why did she not discuss questions of the script itself but instead approach the poem? It turned out that this "guided reading of the original poem" homework had been taught her by Professor Yang Hsiang-shih a while ago. It was only that "the old gentleman is not well and I do not have the heart to pursue every detail". Now seeing that I was young and healthy, she had no qualms in "disturbing" me up to 3 a.m.

This was the beginning of our working together. Afterwards when I wrote such operas as "Fated for Another Life", "Ah-Kai Princess", "The Red Silk Tragedy", "Ask Heaven" and "Stopping for the Night on a Riverside", she would still "disturb" me "uninhibitedly". Whether I was in my mother's house or my husband's place, the telephone would ring in the middle of the night. Sometimes she has a sudden brainwave, sometimes it was just for deliberating the matching of one word with one singing style. To tell the truth, I often found it very troublesome, especially when I was lying in the labor ward waiting to deliver a baby, she still persisted in doing character analysis or something. Watching her red lips rapidly opening and closing, moving up and down, I could not take in a word, just feeling more painful in the abdomen and very disturbed!

But "post production" I became very sober. I realized that the chances of meeting an actress like her who wanted to go into every detail and every single word without letting go were few and far between. To be able to contribute a share of my heart and my effort toward the "modernization of opera" for Taiwan is in fact a predestined relationship hard to come by. What is precious in life is an amicable relationship. Although I have no understanding of her besides what has to do with "opera", how many people will there be who share common ideals for the opera?

These few years I often reflect whether it is worthwhile to spend so much time on Ya Yin in the midst of my busy academic work. My feelings are complex. But the final answer is in the affirmative. Today, when cultural exchanges between both shores of the Strait have opened up for many years, people have become used to "the modernization of opera". But the social trend in the 70s were different from now. Not many people were able to raise at that time the concept and the insight of "Grasping the pulse of the time and seeking change within tradition", not to mention that the Peking opera circle has always been conservative and strict. Not everybody could possess and achieve this courage and determination to clear all obstacles and cut out a new way. The "opera reform" in the Mainland is a national policy, the result of government orders achieved by artistic workers throughout the whole country giving their wisdom and efforts together. On the other hand, the innovative work in Taiwan was first led by "one actress's own initiative". This "self consciousness" is worthy of our admiration. To be able to take part in and share this experience, I consider it a predestined relationship hard to come by. Of course it is great trouble (just to hasten and chase after this preface has led to many a midnight phone call!) But is it not also a sweet interference?

This book not only keeps a complete record for Ya Yin's endeavors all these years, it also gives a report card for the innovation of opera in Taiwan. At this moment of the publication of the book, I wish Hsiao-chuang an even more energetic development and a new height!