Dancing Murder in Color 武松杀嫂 The Slaughter of Pan Jinlian (“Interlude” Drama 折子戲)

My highly unorthodox chapter head will I am sure bring down the scholarly indignation of all Sinologues upon my dillettant head “what do do you mean “interludes”- no such thing in the sense of clear separation from main text”.

I stick with the misnaming however, for a purpose”: to help accentuate what the “enfold” was meant to do.

According to the various online dictionaries, the correct translation of the genre zhezixi is “famous extract” or “highlight episode” folded into one or another longer narratives (remember that where time and cast was available, performances of full-scale stage-dramas could last 3 or more days, perhaps even beyond the stamina of the Bayreuth pilgrims. They were not the same thing as (our) interludes, eruptions of fun to lighten the mental strain of the retelling of canonical works speaking (retailing) often in translation from the Italian or French) the ballads of the troubadors (Trovatari, Meistersingern) of the pre-print age. As much as did the singers of the seemingly endless line of Orfeo operas need a breather from their recitatifs. Enough already..).

The Interlude proper in Renaissance stage works was rather “play” or “game” (ludi) free from structure, open to improvisation, especially in “ballet” – balls/masques, dressups, even occasions for persons of noble rank to try their terpsichordian skils (always applauded). Later, “The Death of Pyramus and Thisbe”, as an internal diversion within MSND, pushed the”play”-let to the point of slapstick and bawdiness,which over time births the minstrel show then “musical”, then the backdoor musical.

The hard-to-traslate “enfolded playlet” was nothing of the sort: written in the manner, perhaps, of chapter summaries by the very same scribe(s) who created (re-created) the zillion-chapter main texts (printed for salacious readers)their tone was if anything more tense and evocative than the main chaptered text.

The ‘special scene’ while an extract and highlight, does not pick up the nuance of “jumping-out-of the vernacular shuobai”. nor could it if vortices of enraged or extreme emotion, spilling over into wild (hysterical) speech and gesture, is the dramatic effect that sets these lacunae apart from predictable a diction. Wu Song’s horrifying butchering of”Golden Lotus” is no highlighted painting”: it is rather a flight into intemperate madness – the essence of opera, terror and irratioanality.

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