March 27, 2005

The Wilful Princess

26 March 2005 - Kreta Ayer People's Theatre

Is this Peng Mun’s farewell performance?

It needs great effort for a male to sing in an artificial female voice in a 3-hour long opera. To be honest, I think his voice now has lost the feminine qualities of a ‘hua dan’ – unlike about 10 years ago when he performed with Aw Kai Meng an excerpt from the same opera. I have been watching his performances all along so I got used to the gradual changes. But someone who has not seen him for quite sometime or someone who was seeing him for the first time would find his voice queer. His excellent opera skills could only partly compensate for this. It was a good thing that in this opera there is no second ‘hua dan’ besides the empress who just sang a few lines.

So I think it is good for him to ‘retire’ earlier, at least from full-length operas and leave his fans with fond memories. I wonder if he would consider performing the male role instead. Perhaps, having performed as a ‘nan hua dan’ (female impersonator) for such a long time, the mannerisms of the hua dan are so entrenched in him that he finds it difficult to change roles.

On the whole it was a good show. Chan Fook Hong and Christopher Choo put up great performances. But I think there is no need for so many monks in the last scene. Rather than enhancing the scene, they caused distraction and confusion.

Just my non-professional sincere views; hope Peng Mun's supporters won' t get offended.

My write-up on Aw Yeong Peng Mun:


Anonymous said...

I have too watched this 3 hour full-length Cantonese opera at KAPT. This is my first experience at watching such a long Cantonese performance. I must agree to a certain extent that Peng Mun's voice does not really resemble a real female's voice, especially when the Princess is talking. However it is clear that his singing skills (to reaching those high pitched notes) are definitely superb. Imagine a person who speaks so manly (Peng Mun spoke in his original voice after the show) in his 40 years of life, to be able to control his pitch (and I believe the "qi") to reach those notes accurately. Personally I do not know of anyone else who can do the same (not in Singapore, and I boldly presume not many can do it even back in China). You would have agreed that his mannerism of emulating a lady (a princess) is so fasinating. I was totally mesmerised in the show. Especially the scenes when the General was trying to be difficult with the princess, making her kneel, as well as when the General tried to coax the princess in/outside the room. I'm simply amazed at Peng Mun's refined and feminine gestures. A very well done performance, especially for nan hua dan!

huixin said...


看他时而语出惊人,看他时而受尽委屈;看他时而咄咄逼人,看他时而惊慌失措; 看他时而小鸟依人,看他时而耍赖刁蛮。




甚至如已故京剧名伶梅兰芳,如此的一代宗师, 如若他还在世难道你会要他“该趁早退休,见好就收”吗?

huixin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Most local CO fans would agree that Peng Mun has good acting and singing skills, but the point here is his voice. He himself has admitted that as age catches up (of course Peng Mun is still very young) it would be difficult to maintain the quality of his ‘hua dan’ voice.

If there were another ‘hua dan’ with good singing skills (e.g. Sally Low Moon Chun) singing in the same scene with Peng Mun, then maybe it would illustrate what Frannxis meant by feminine qualities.

Anonymous said...

Please do not compare a "nan hua dan" with a hua dan. How many actor can sing like Peng Mun. Why should he retires?

opera fan said...

Peng Mun is a good 'nan hua dan' - the best. But if he himself knows that he cannot maintain the standard of his voice, how to keep his audience?

Qui Ann said...

Since Peng Mun acts as a 'hua dan', it is logical to compare him with other 'hua dans'. Compare him with other 'nan hua dan'? Then he will be No.1 every year until he retires because no one wants to be a 'nan hua dan' nowadays.
I think he himself compares with female 'hua dans' to improve and he learns from them. Otherwise he will be stagnant.

siew peng said...

some comment i hear at the show -
a woman - he is more pretty than the kong chow new female fah dan
one old lady - his skill still good, better than some female fah dan but his voice is now worse
people compare him with female fah dan all the time

annoymous no.4 said...

Anonymous said do not compare a nan hua dan with a hua dan. Does he mean a hua dan is naturally better than a nan hua dan? Surely not. If that is true then people watch Peng Mun not because he is good but because they are curious to see him dressed as a woman.
A hua dan is a hua dan whether male or female.

opera fan said...

Adding to my earlier comments
No actor can sing like Peng Mun - that is as a hua dan. His voice is still OK now. But do we want to wait until it gets to a stage when it sounds neither male nor female.

Anonymous said...

Peng Mun still commands such a big crowd. Look at the Kreta Ayer Theatre on Saturday, 26 March, full house, you know. This proof that he is the attraction and good. So far, no local opera actor can beat him to it yet. He has a lot a sponsors, why? Because he is good that is why sponsors are willing to spend money knowing that he commands such a big crowd!!! Action speaks louder than words.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I agree with Anonymous. I was very impressed with Aw Yeong Peng Mun's show on 26 March. The costumes are beautiful, the acting and singing is very good. The opera show is very well organised. We are impressed with the crowd (yes, full house)and all those assistants at the door. So helpful and smiling, beautiful faces and we felt so welcome, indeed. They did a very good job by promoting the Cantonese opera to non-Chinese educated audience, too. I saw many Japanese and a handful of Caucasians among the audience. Yes, Peng Mun must be good to command so many sponsors, I agree. I think this is the first time that a local Cantonese opera show has so many sponsors (correct me, if I'm wrong). Thumbs up for them, keep up the good work and look forward to their next performance.

Anonymous said...

I think it is very motivating to see that there are still people so devoted in this fading culture, Chinese Opera. Having Peng Mun as the only female impersonator in Singapore (or even overseas) who can sing and act (and also direct, choreograph, etc) so well, I feel proud of him. It is very unfair of Qui Ann to say that he is the No 1 and always the No 1 just because there is no others who want to be a "nan hua dan" nowadays. Instead of encouraging this home-grown amateur, it sounded more like a sarcasm.

Not that we should give him the leeway for not sounding like a female because he is a man, but I guess we can always put it in a more inspiring way to motivate Peng Mun to progress further. Everyone understands that age catches up with man. Even a female hua dan might face the crisis of losing her "feminine qualities", let alone a man. I agree a hua dan is a hua dan, regardless of male or female. Let us just treat it as a rare performance that we don't always see in Singapore, presented by a female impersonator who constantly improves himself and devotes in this vanishing art.

annoymous no.4 said...

The critical factor is his voice. Only 2 persons commented on this.

Anonymous said...

The most important attribute for an opera artist is voice. A good voice can mask many minor inadequacies.
If his voice has deteriorated, people will still watch him:
1. just to see his skills,
2. to show their loyalty,
3. to express sympathy.

Anonymous said...

All regular CO fans know PM is good and has support. His supporters who wrote here sounded emotional when others criticize him. They wrote all the praises but failed to mention the most important factor stated by Annoymous no.4. As supporters, maybe it is polite not to.

opera fan said...

Actually no one here criticize PM. They only say his voice is not as good as before. This is true.
He cant help it. So no need to get upset or emotional.
We want to avoid a situation later when the young one will giggle and the old fans will listen with discomfort when he sing.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing emotional about my comments. I have been his fan for over 20 years and I have seen him grown. I know his assets and faults but I still think he is one of the BEST. I hope he will not retire and will continue to cultivate by teaching and directing the younger ones the art of Cantonese Opera.

opera fan said...

Agree, nobody said he should he retire from CO. They advise him to retire from performing only.

annoymous no.4 said...

20 years of friendship and not emotionally-involved - Vow! Very calm and rational.

There are 6 or 7 'anonymous'. The one who mentioned big crowd, full house, sponsors, polite attendants, Japanese audience is appealing to emotions.

Anonymous said...

I am his FAN and not a friend yet. Just acquaintance. I watched all his show without fail. That is why I know about his singing style.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends and Fans of Aw Yeong Peng Mun, Please read the review of the Wilful Princess in the LianHe Zaobao on Friday, 8 April 2005.