Innovative Voice and Physical Theatre
Developmental direction for vocal-physical opera
Prospects for Vocal-Physical theatre
Vocal-Physical Opera is a new theatrical synthesis
As a professional singer and theatre director, I have noticed that opera singers are usually lacking in physical expression as a tool for dramatic interpretation. Blending vocal and physical training can greatly improve the artistic abilities of performers of many kinds (not only opera singers). However, as required by the profession, performers need to be multi-talented. We need professional singers who can display strong physical expression while they are singing, combining voice and movement, and delivering the inner meaning of the music in a more visual way.
Adapting elements both from Western theatrical forms and Classical Chinese aesthetics, The Monk and the Lotus aims at changing the style of the performers on stage. It uses physical training, improvisation, and dramatic performing techniques to develop and enhance musical expressiveness and visual beauty.
Theoretical support for training methods:
1. The singing techniques for opera singers are based on the control of relevant muscle groups and adjusting breathing accurately to transform the body into a perfect resonant instrument.
2. For dramatic performers, breathing techniques and control over muscles are also important for characterization. The effect created by breathing on stage is always clear for the audience.
3. Starting from breathing during physical activities (sport), I conducted research into the mechanism of relevant muscle groups, adjustment of vocalization and physical expression, and aiming at a union of the vocal and the physical.
4. In the Classical Chinese performer training system, this union of the vocal and the physical has been achieved. Although this system is not entirely applicable to opera singers and dramatic performers, it is still worth consulting for its sound methods and theories.
A record of the creative process
In 2010, after working with several renowned directors, I first became aware of the lack of physical expressiveness in opera singers. I began my research into this area of training and how it might be improved.
The initial idea for The Monk and the Lotus came to me after reading the play Buddhist Master Yu by Cao Lusheng. I wanted to make an opera based on the same subject matter, because there was a great potential for strong theatrical expression in the story, which would present a physical challenge for opera singers of just the type I had in mind.
With this goal in mind, I applied for the MFA Theatre Directing course at E15 in London in 2015 to continue my research in vocal-physical theatre. During these two years in London, my focus was on developing methods for combining the vocal and physical.
Starting in June 2016, I worked with the composer Niccolo Athens for one year on creating the opera The Monk and the Lotus.
In December 2016, a demonstration video was made for the opera.
In February 2017, I met with Mr. Cao Lusheng to discuss improving the libretto.
In March 2017, I received a rough recording of the music of the opera from the composer.
In April 2017, I began to hold vocal-physical training workshops.
In April 2017, the full score and parts for the ensemble were completed.
I received an invitation to present the opera as part of the Tete a Tete Opera Festival on August 10, 2017 at the RADA Studio Theatre.
On September 28 and 30, 2017, we will present two more performances at London’s Corbett Theatre.
In October and November, we will be presenting additional performances at London’s West Theatre (still in planning).
Future plans: I will use this work to apply for participation in the Beijing International Music Festival, The Shanghai International Music Festival, and the Wuzhen Arts Festival, as well as music festivals in other countries.