The Red Guards on Lake Honghu

Rebecca Varidel
2nd Sep 2018


It's been 60 years and more than 3000 shows and now performing since state-owned performing arts group Hubei Provincial Opera and Dance Drama Theatre was founded in 1952. They are just now performing outside of China and with seven principal singers and a chorus of forty will be performing The Red Guards on Lake Honghuias an Australian first with celebrated Australian guest conductor Vanessa Scammell at the Sydney Opera House on November 4.

The original opera was first performed in 1958 in Wuhan and was staged in Beijing in October 1959. Based on the true story, Han Ying and Liu Chuang led a team of guardians defending their homeland in the scenic Lake Honghu area in the summer of 1930. Interesting to note by means of its famous lake, Honghu City produces forty kinds of fish and an abundance of plants, such as the lotus, reed and a type of lack algae.

Blending western style opera with traditional Chinese and Hubei folk songs and lyrical ballad, the melody is cheerful, full of passion and shows the revolutionary pioneer’s love of the hometown and hope for the happy lives and future. The music structure contains both strength of the Chinese traditional opera and English Opera. The lyrics and the music tell the story and focus on emphasising the character’s internal emotions.

Since its debut in Beijing, The Red Guards on Lake Honghu composed by Zhu Benhe, Zhang Jing’an and Ouyang Qianshu, has become a national treasure. In 1961, it was adapted into a popular film, and famous passages such as The Honghu Lake, Waves Upon Waves; No Tears, No Sorrow; and Wait and See the Liberation of All Suffering People, have become a part of China’s collective memory.

This unique concert production aims to celebrate and revive the classic work, the performance preserved the brilliance of the original music, while also making modifications to the arrangements to reinvent the piece for contemporary audiences.

Sunday November 4 · Sydney Opera House Concert Hall / +61 2 9250 7777