Last month, we caught The Nightingale by SRT’s The Little Company and enjoyed it thoroughly. After the show, the kids went back and read the story it was based on several times and would randomly break into songs from the show. Adam repeatedly asked me if he could watch the show again. So when I told them that we were going to watch 夜莺, the Chinese version of The Nightingale, they were very excited indeed.
As mentioned in my earlier post, The Nightingale is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story about an emperor who falls in love with the melodious singing of a nightingale and forces the little bird to live in a gilded cage so that it could not leave his side. Eventually, the bird is replaced by a mechanical version made with precious metals and stones and the emperor’s attention is momentarily captured by his new toy until it breaks down one day. He falls gravely ill and his old friend the nightingale returns to his side to sing him back to health.
The Chinese version of The Nightingale features the same catchy tunes and impeccable comic timing. Three of the four actors are different from the ones in the original English version but they fill their roles well.
The spoilt Emperor has everything he wants but is constantly bored and restless and always looking for something new to entertain him. His throne is just a cage and he is a prisoner in his own palace. After reading about the nightingale in a book sent to him by the Emperor of Japan, he sets his heart on hearing it sing and sends his Protector to find the nightingale. A maid leads the Protector to the nightingale.
The Emperor has a cage made for the nightingale, attaches a golden chain to it and does not allow it to leave the palace. Eventually, the homesick nightingale stops singing and the Emperor chases it away. He substitutes the plain brown nightingale with a shiny mechanical jewelled nightingale from the Emperor of Japan, but the wind-up bird breaks down and, heartbroken, the Emperor falls terribly ill.
The nightingale returns to sing to the Emperor and he recovers and finally takes the bold step of leaving his palace to see the place that inspires the nightingale’s song. He learns the true meaning of freedom, happiness, love, and friendship.
In Chinese, the themes and the story come through even more meaningfully and I’m glad the kids got to watch both versions of the show. 夜莺 is playing at DBS Arts Centre – Home of SRT until Saturday, 11 October and tickets are available from SISTIC. This is an excellent local production that should not be missed.
Disclaimer: We received three complimentary tickets to watch this performance. All opinions are my own.