It is time to experience a digital opera at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and this year my eye fell on Nam Hwa Opera of Singapore and their tale of chivalry and martial arts, The Severing Sword.
Running at just 100 minutes, this is a short but ambitious entry in the genre, with detailed sers and backdrops. For an amateur group of enthusiastic Teichew opera devotees, this company punches high above its weight.
Performed in the Teichew dialect with subtitles in English and Chinese, it sets out a familiar story of a sword with special powers (the Kun Wu) and of dastardly deeds in the pursuit of power.
This is the stuff of both graphic novels and cultural legend, based on a popular wuxia novel by Liang Yu Sheng. The music is beautiful and the storyline easy to follow.
Perforned in 2019 as part of Nam Hwa Opera’s 55th anniversary, The Severed Sword packs a lot into a short running time, as men fight and kill, families are ripped apart, and revenge becomes inevitable.
This adaptation by playwright Huang Jian Feng and composer Wang Qing Su is touching, traditional and technically adept. The big stories seem realistic, immediate and accessible.
The six-strong cast (Tan Kah Noi, Huang Linlin, Li Lvqiao, Chen Yuzhi, Wendy Lee, Anthony Tan) all showcase strong vocal skills, expressive movement, and convincing – if heightened – acting.
An epic piece of legend that passes through generations, The Severing Sword is shaped by director Goh Boon Teck for a wide appeal to fans of the opera genre, of the wuxia stories, and the simply curious.
If you’d like to try something a little different from your sofa at this year’s fringe, The Severing Sword is available through August – get your free tickets here.
*** (and a half)