Effects of Chinese opera on the reproductions of Ibsen's plays


  • Miriam Leung Che LAU Hong Kong Community College, Polytechnic University of Hong Kong




Intercultural, Peking opera, Alienation Effect, Fourth Wall, Richard Schechner, Bertolt Brecht


As part of a globalized phenomenon, the reproductions of Ibsen’s plays on the Chinese theatrical stage increasingly focus upon the exploration and expansion of new cultural forms, as Patrice Pavis defines interculturalism as “grasping the dialectical of exchanges of civilities between cultures”. However, how do we evaluate the effectiveness of the many “intercultural” productions that surround us today?

I attempt to answer this question by comparing two Chinese reproductions of Ibsen’s plays that employ elements of Chinese opera on varying scales. The first one is a total transformation of Hedda Gabler into a Hangzhou yue opera form, Xin Bi Tian Gao (Aspirations Higher than the Sky, 心比天高) in 2006. As part of the yue opera tradition, Hedda Gabler was staged in an all-female cast. The second one is a fragmented insertion of a Peking opera excerpt into the staging of A Doll’s House by the National Experimental Theatre of China in 1998. One of the highlights of the play is a Norwegian actress, who plays Nora, singing and dancing a short Peking opera excerpt, thus replacing the tarantella dance in the original play. Contextualising the multiple perspectives towards interculturalism by Patrice Pavis, Richard Schechner and Rustom Bharucha, I aim to explore how the appropriation of Chinese opera in such performances might strengthen or weaken the reciprocal flows between the source and target cultures in Pavis’s “hourglass model”, and whether the initial attempt of revitalising both Chinese and Western art forms has backfired and misproduced Bertolt Brecht’s alienation effect directed at the contemporary audience. 

Author Biography

Miriam Leung Che LAU, Hong Kong Community College, Polytechnic University of Hong Kong

Miss Miriam Leung Che, LAU is an assistant lecturer from the Hong Kong Community College, Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (with first class honours) in English and Comparative Literature and Master of Philosophy in English Literature from The University of Hong Kong. During her studies, she was awarded the Ellis Bell Prize in English Literature and Comparative Literature, and also a Worldwide Exchange Scholarship to fund her exchange studies at the University of California, Irvine.
     With her research interest mainly in the crossovers between Western and Chinese theatre, Miriam has been invited to share her thoughts about the “History & Development of Theatre in the East & West” on a programme called “The Big Idea” on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). Besides, she has twice given papers at the International Ibsen Conference, which is a triennial conference, gathering scholars all over the world to discuss the works of the great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Her paper has also recently been published in the conference proceedings of the 12th International Ibsen Conference by Fudan University.

Miriam is currently doing her doctoral research at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. Just as Shakespeare famously wrote: “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” Miriam is an amateur actress when she is not teaching, and she has acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in the UK.




How to Cite

LAU, Miriam Leung Che. 2015. “Effects of Chinese opera on the reproductions of Ibsen’s plays”. Nordlit, no. 34 (February):315–326. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.3376.