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NCPA Children’s Opera Commission
A Story About Growing Up

A Story About Growing Up is a newly commissioned opera work adapted from a Chinese fairy tale carrying the same name. (also known as The Fool and the Unhappy Boy, Dopey and Grumpy, and Scatterbrain and Crosspatch) It was written and published by Mr. REN Rongrong in 1956, a celebrated Chinese translator and writer of children’s literature. Delivered in a humorous tone, the story features engaging jokes that convey meaningful lessons. It is recognized as a beacon in classic Chinese children’s humorous literature and was adapted into a cartoon of the same name by Shanghai Animation Film Studio in 1962.

Introduction of the Opera
A Story About Growing Up is the NCPA’s fourth children’s opera commission, adapted from a Chinese fairy tale carrying the same name. (also known as The Fool and the Unhappy Boy, Dopey and Grumpy, and Scatterbrain and Crosspatch). It was written and published by Mr. REN Rongrong in 1956, a celebrated Chinese translator and writer of children’s literature. The funny, lively, and thought-provoking fable focuses on two children, one being careless, called “the Fool,” and the other petulant and bad-tempered, called “the Unhappy Boy.” They used to shrug off their foibles. However, after a dreamlike time travel, they realize that even a seemingly minor wicked deed may have dire consequences. It has been more than six decades since the two children first embarked on their magical adventure, which has not only made the story a classic in the history of Chinese children’s literature but also a story shared and loved by generations of people.

Since 2015, the NCPA has been making new explorations in the genre of children’s opera and has launched three widely acclaimed commissions: The Fisherman and the Goldfish, Effendi, and Snow White. In 2018, the NCPA invited outstanding new-generation artists to bring the well-known characters of the Fool and the Unhappy Boy onto the opera stage for the first time, creating a children’s comic opera showcasing the characteristics of Beijing to pay tribute to this classic story. Through this opera work, young audiences can appreciate the charm of operas in a relaxing and cheerful atmosphere, perceiving “the true, the goodness, and the beauty” in all, and passing on the positive energy. In 2019, the NCPA reunited the original production team and cast members to polish the opera work to present a perfected version of this children’s opera classic to the audience.

Scene 1: The Bad Habits of the Fool and the Unhappy Boy
Both the Fool and the Unhappy Boy have weaknesses. The Fool is careless and forgetful; the Unhappy Boy holds no discretion in his temperament, and he times it ill.

During a choir rehearsal, the Unhappy Boy insists on singing in a different tone from everyone else, which vexes the teacher. Whereas the Fool turns his home upside down, looking for his workbook in a mess. Those who know the two children are worried about them and kindly ask them to think about their future life in their regards. Instead of taking people’s advice, neither of the children takes their weaknesses seriously, and they believe that things will turn out just fine when they’re adults.

The alarm clock with magical powers opens the Door of Time for them, turning them into grown-ups in the blink of an eye.

Scene 2: The Joy of Growing Up
The Fool and the Unhappy Boy wake up to find themselves grown-ups overnight. The Fool is now an architect, and the Unhappy Boy is a Peking Opera actor. The Fool has designed the world’s tallest building - the One-Thousand-Floor Tower (which only has 999 floors after its completion due to a miscount by the Fool). In the theater on the top floor of that building, the Unhappy Boy will play the tiger in a Peking Opera play, WU Song Fights the Tiger.

Scene 3: The Nine-Hundred-and-Ninety-Nine-and-a-Half-Floor Tower
Full of anticipation, the Fool, who is on his way to the theater to enjoy the performance of the Unhappy Boy, only finds that audiences are trudging their way step by step to get to the top floor and panting under the weight of their backpacks bulged with food for the long journey. Only then does the Fool realize that he forgot to include elevators in his design of the tallest building in the world! He receives ridicule and blame from exhausted audiences for his carelessness.

Scene 4: The Tiger Fights WU Song
On the stage, the Unhappy Boy is unwilling to follow the script and once again lets his temper overwhelm him. He will not have WU Song kill the tiger, namely, him. On the contrary, he wants the tiger to be the hero and he beats WU song so badly that he even ruins the stage settings.

After that, the Fool and the Unhappy Boy finally realize their foibles and hope to travel back to their childhood to get things right.

The alarm clock once again uses its magical powers and sends the two boys back to their childhood. The two decide to start over and strive to be a better version of themselves with a down-to-earth attitude.

1. Background: Since The Fool and the Unhappy Boy was first published in the magazine Juvenile’s Literature in 1956, it has become a much beloved classic Chinese children’s literature work. In 1962, it was adapted into a cartoon of the same name by Shanghai Animation Film Studio. In 2017, it was selected as the recommended reading material in the “Happy Reading Hour” section of the Chinese language textbook for second-grade students. Therefore, the play has a truly huge audience base including adults and children. Since the story’s lessons and theme are timeless, all audiences, old and young, can relate to it.

2. Music: The composer of the opera is ZHANG Yixin, who obtained a doctoral degree at the Central Conservatory of Music under the mentorship of the renowned composer HAO Weiya. ZHANG Yixin once arranged the music for Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice produced by the NCPA. The music of The Fool and the Unhappy Boy features a cheerful rhythm and a multi-layered structure with a strong comedic vibe. Elements from classic children’s songs, Finding Friends and Dropping the Handkerchief, were skillfully fused into the music to make the opera work resonate with Chinese audiences. In the part of WU Song Fights the Tiger, the music in the style of “Luogujing” (a traditional notation method used for percussion music of Chinese operas) fully showcases the characteristics of Beijing.

3. Script: HAN Jinguang, the playwright of the original children’s opera Effendi produced by the NCPA, joined forces with the NCPA again. While faithfully basing his adaptation on the story’s original structure, he managed to make the characters vivid and suitable for the opera stage. The lyrics of this opera are simple and easy to understand and convey a particular beauty and subtle humor through its words, making the opera accessible to people of all ages.

4. Production team: Director WANG Bingran from Beijing Children’s Art Theater has extensive experience in creating children’s operas and a deep understanding of children’s psychology and preferences. His play A Flying Dream has won numerous domestic awards. In addition, the set designer ZHANG Wu, costume designer QIN Wenbao, lighting designer WANG Qi, video projection designer HU Tianji, styling designer QI Na, posture guide YU Youxi, audio effect designer LIU Yunfeng, and other talented artists formed a superb team to produce the opera adaptation of The Fool and the Unhappy Boy and continue to share this captivating story to many more.

NCPA New Production
Puccini’s Opera Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi is a one-act comic opera composed by Giacomo Puccini on April 20, 1918, and usually performed in a triptych (Il Trittico) together with Il Tabarro (The Cloak) and Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica). The story of the opera is derived from just a few lines in the 30th canto of Inferno of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, which depict the will forger Gianni Schicchi. Gianni Schicchi is regarded as the “most Italian” one of the triptych, not only because the story takes place in Florence, but, more importantly, the music overbrims with Mediterranean vitality and energy. Puccini infused his personal style into the comic opera, making it the only comic opera in his oeuvre.

Introduction of the Opera
Gianni Schicchi, a one-act comic opera composed by Giacomo Puccini on April 20, 1918, is part of his Il Trittico (The Triptych), which also includes Il Tabarro (The Cloak) (1917) and Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) (1916). The triptych represents the three fundamental characteristics of Puccini’s works: tragic, lyrical, and witty. Set in three different eras and regional backgrounds, the triptych starts with the brutally realistic Il Tabarro, followed by its gentle and lyrical opposite Suor Angelica, and concludes with the distinctly “Italian comedy” of Gianni Schicchi, with which Puccini realized his long-standing wish to create a comedy, making it an outlier among his rich repertoire of representative works. Many theater-goers found it hard to believe that such a high-quality comedy came from Puccini, which precisely proves Plato’s viewpoint at the end of Symposium: a writer of tragic poems may also compose comic works.

The triptych premiered at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on December 14, 1918, but Puccini did not attend it. The then-director of the opera house sent a congratulatory telegram to Puccini after the premiere: “Huge success. Applause at the end of each opera, with 40 curtain calls. Especially fervent for Gianni Schicchi.” In the past hundred years or so, Gianni Schicchi has indeed been the most popular one in the triptych. It is often performed independently or with one-act plays or ballets by other composers.

In terms of its music, Gianni Schicchi can be considered Puccini’s purest and most whimsically brilliant masterpiece, fully revealing the composer’s playful nature. It is delicately and densely layered in musical composition and full of dynamic and pithy dialogues, constituting a series of endlessly intriguing fantasias. The details are rich in comparisons and contrasts, reflecting the real life of the small landowner class in Italy as was perceived by Puccini.

From a dramatic perspective, Gianni Schicchi achieves a perfect unity of operatic literature, narrative structure, and comedy, making it a classic in the history of Italian opera and the pinnacle of Puccini’s operatic creativity. From the beginning to the end of the play, the ten-plus characters hardly ever go off the stage, and all the ups and downs of the plot are masterfully weaved into the music as the characters shout, discuss, hurl insults, and howl, feigning sorrow and disappointment out of their greed for Buoso Donati’s wealth and descending into a rage and losing control of themselves when they can’t get what they want. While the comedic elements in the music are unmistakable, they diminish not a bit the nobility and elegance inherent in Puccini’s music. That’s exactly why Gianni Schicchi, the protagonist who is a common man, is endowed with a rare individuality and dignity.

The 2021 NCPA edition of Gianni Schicchi is an orchestra reproduction after the piano version for small theaters debuted in 2010. The energetic and youthful production team of the NCPA crafted a new visual presentation for the stage of a drama theater. Director WU Yin and young designer ZHANG Kunpeng, together with their colleagues, have fully tapped into the valuable resources of the NCPA accumulated from over a decade of opera productions. They are bold to innovate while staying true to what makes classic works timeless. Their ingenious ideas take advantage of the unique features of the drama theater stage and the rewarding experience of their deep involvement in opera productions at the NCPA over the years.

The famous Florentine magnate, Buoso Donati, has passed away, and his greedy relatives rush to his house, hoping to get their hands on his estate. To their surprise and disappointment, Donati has left a will to donate all his possessions to the church. Rinuccio, the nephew of Zita, a cousin of Buoso Donati, is deeply in love with Lauretta, the daughter of Gianni Schicchi. However, the Donati family strongly opposes their union because Lauretta cannot provide a substantial dowry. Rinuccio brings in the resourceful Schicchi for help, while Lauretta pleads with her father with the song O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh My Dear Dad). Gianni Schicchi claims that Donati has had a sudden revival, and disguised as the ailing man, he summons a notary to draft a new will. In this will, he leaves parts of Donati’s estate to his relatives but reserves the most valuable assets - the mule, the mills, and the mansion in Florence - for “Donati’s dear friend, Gianni Schicchi,” securing a sizable dowry for his daughter. With the new notarized will, Schicchi drives away the furious relatives, and Lauretta and Rinuccio finally get together.

The Famous Aria
“O Mio Babbino Caro” - Lauretta

In the best-known aria of this opera, an exceptionally melodious and moving number, Lauretta asks her father for his approval to marry her lover. Its simple and neat tune, with a hint of folk style, might seem out of place in an opera with a turbulent musical atmosphere and absurdly chaotic plot. However, this contrast highlights how the opera’s only innocent character, Lauretta, stands out amidst the greedy and cunning crowd. Despite the unchallenging vocal range and techniques the number involves, its long-standing popularity and the enduring renditions left by generations of renowned sopranos mean that even today’s top singers need extraordinary skills and arrangement to make their versions stand out and receive genuine acclaim.




《没头脑和不高兴》是国家大剧院制作的第四部原创儿童歌剧,改编自我国著名儿童文学翻译家、作家任溶溶老先生于1956年创作出版的同名童话作品。这个幽默、生动又极富教育意义的寓言故事,讲述了粗心大意的“没头脑”和任性坏脾气的“不高兴”这两个孩子,对自己的小缺点总是不以为然,通过一次亦梦亦幻的穿越,最终明白了小毛病会酿成大恶果的道理。这部作品创作至今已六十余年,不仅成为了儿童文学史上的经典之作,更是几代人共同的童年记忆。 2015年起,国家大剧院便开始了在儿童歌剧领域的新探索,陆续推出了《渔公与金鱼》《阿凡提》《白雪公主》三部广受好评的儿童歌剧。2018年,国家大剧院力邀国内新生代杰出艺术家,首度将众所周知的童话形象“没头脑”和“不高兴”搬上歌剧舞台,倾力打造出一部具有北京地域特色的儿童喜歌剧,以此向经典致敬,让青少年观众在轻松欢快的氛围下,领略歌剧艺术的无穷魅力,感知“真善美”,传播正能量。2019年,国家大剧院将再次集结原班主创团队,对该剧进一步修改打磨,力争有更加完美的呈现、打造儿童歌剧的经典。

第一场 没头脑和不高兴的坏习惯
第二场 长大的喜悦
第三场 千层大楼
第四场 虎打武松

1. 背景:1956年,《没头脑和不高兴》首次在《少年文艺》杂志上发表后,便受到了读者们的喜爱,成为儿童文学的经典之作。1962年,上海美术电影制片厂将它翻拍成同名动画片。2017年,《没头脑和不高兴》的故事被选为语文二年级教材“快乐读书吧”板块的推荐读物。因此,该剧无论是对现在的小朋友,还是对曾经是小朋友的大朋友们来说,都具有很好的群众基础。且该故事所讲述的道理、传达的主题思想,亦是亘古不变的,让每个踏入剧场的观众都能与之产生共鸣。
2. 音乐:担纲作曲的是青年作曲张艺馨,毕业于中央音乐学院,师从我国著名作曲家郝维亚攻读博士学位。曾为国家大剧院制作的莎士比亚话剧《威尼斯商人》进行音乐编配。该剧音乐节奏欢快、层次丰富、喜剧感强,巧妙地将经典儿歌“找朋友”“丢手绢”元素引入其中以增加亲切感,武松打虎片段运用的“锣鼓经”曲式更为该剧增添了浓浓的京味儿。
3. 剧本:国家大剧院原创儿童歌剧《阿凡提》的编剧韩剑光再次与大剧院携手,在尊重原著故事结构的基础上进行改编,以更加丰富饱满的人物形象服务歌剧舞台。唱词简单易懂,但又不失美感和趣味性,是一部老少皆宜的作品。
4. 创作团队:来自北京儿童艺术剧院的导演王炳燃,具有丰富的儿童剧目创作经验,对孩子们的心理和喜好研究深入,其执导的儿童剧《想飞的孩子》多次获得国内大奖。此外,还有舞美设计张武、服装设计秦文宝、灯光设计王琦、多媒体设计胡天骥、造型设计耆娜、形体指导余又熙、音效设计刘韵锋等实力派艺术家加盟该剧,组成超强创作阵容,共同延续经典、打造歌剧版的《没头脑和不高兴》。



创作完成于1918年4月20日的独幕歌剧《贾尼·斯基基》与《外套》(1916)、《修女安杰丽卡》(1917)并称为普契尼的歌剧三联剧,三联剧集中体现了普契尼的三个基本特征:悲剧、抒情和诙谐。 在三个不同时代、不同地域背景下,普契尼以充满粗暴、残酷现实主义的《外套》开端,接着是一个柔和抒情的对立面《修女安杰丽卡》,最终以带有鲜明“意大利喜剧”色彩的《贾尼·斯基基》收束。普契尼以《贾尼·斯基基》实现了长久以来的喜剧心愿,成为他诸多代表作品中的“另类”,公演时人们大都表示很难想象这样一部如此诙谐的上乘佳作是出自普契尼之手,这也恰恰印证了柏拉图《会饮篇》结尾提出的观点:悲剧诗人也可能成为一个喜剧作家。
从戏剧性出发 《贾尼·斯基基》做到了歌剧文学、叙事结构和喜剧的完美统一,堪称意大利歌剧史上的典范,也代表了普契尼歌剧创作的高度。十余个人物自始至终几乎不曾下场,所有的情节起伏都在音乐中得以实现,众人聚在一起叫嚷、讨论、辱骂、咆哮,因觊觎博索的财产假装出痛苦和失望,在没有分得理想遗产时转瞬愤怒和失控。作品中能够感受到强烈喜剧色彩的音乐思想,但却丝毫没有削减普契尼音乐性格中的高贵和典雅。正是因为这一点,使得作为升斗小民的主人公贾尼·斯基基也被赋予了难得的个性和尊严。



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    December 15, 2023 8:30 pm
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    Jln Tun Razak, Titiwangsa, 50694 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
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