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Cantonese Opera

Tang Kung Han Si

Original album cover While not as well known as the closely related Beijing opera, Cantonese opera is still a vibrant artform wherever Cantonese speakers live. The performance here was recorded in the late 1950s and sold as an album of three 33 1/3 records on the Golden Star label. The back cover is available here as a high-resolution image for those who read Chinese. These files were encoded from a scratchy record album. I used 96 KBPS mono encoding.

The play is "Tang Kung Han Si," or Dreadful History in the Tang Chambers. The story is the well known tragedy of Emperor Ming (Tang Ming Wong) and Concubine Yang (Yang Quai Fei). Emperor Ming, while in mournng for his wife the Empress, is entranced by one of his 3,000 concubines. He falls so much in love with Concubine Yang that the affairs of state deteriorate. A rebellion begins led by the rebel On Luk San. In the midst of warfare, the Emperror's generals demand that Concubine Yang be put to death before they will pledge loyalty to him. At the end, he bids farewell and she is killed.

The performance is by the Hong Kong Golden Voices ensemble. The performers include Ma Yok Ling (Concubine Yang), Tsung Wan San (Emperor Ming), Lei Kam Chung (Go Lek Si), Leung Kam Ko (On Luk San) and Lo Lai (Concubine Mui). The arranger and music director is Chue Kong.

For those unfamiliar with Cantonese opera, any one of the following 15-minute files will give you a taste. I offer the entire recording here primarily for fans of Cantonese opera.

  1. Emperor Ming peers into the imperial bathhouse
  2. Tender moments in the Forbidden Chamber
  3. Concubine Mui wails in the lonely chamber
  4. Yang and Mui fight for the Emperor's love
  5. On Luk San enters the city
  6. Concubine Yang is put to death
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