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The Moon Opera Hardcover – January 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (January 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012947
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 4.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,962,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A peerless singer in the Peking Opera is ruined by her jealousy of her understudy in this vividly sketched tale of art and money by Chinese screenwriter (Shanghai Triad) and novelist Feiyu. In 1979, 20 years before the novel takes place, the actress Xiao Yanqiu debuted brilliantly and memorably as the lead in The Moon Opera, although she soon wrecked her career when she attacked her understudys teacher in a fit of rage at sharing the spotlight. Now 40, unhappily married and overweight, Xiao is offered the chance to reprise her role in a new production bankrolled by a factory owner and former fan. Xiao, who assumes the role to perfection, chooses as her understudy a gifted student, Chunlai, who postpones a TV career for the promise of the stage. The scene is set for a terrible showdown, naturally, complicated by the clash between art and money, as exemplified by the crass interests of the factory owner. The novels slimness, simple storytelling and overarching morality lend it a fable-like air, with Xiao filling the role of its tormented star. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This slender novel on a rather narrow topic nevertheless resonates with a clear, crystalline bell tone. The Chinese author, in his first novel, brings his admirably, even stunningly, precise and effortlessly metaphoric style to bear (“That slip of paper was a sigh from the wind”) on one aspect of Chinese culture that has transcended the change in regimes over the centuries: the Peking opera. As we, in fascination, observe here, the Peking opera is a tightly ritualized, tradition-bound art form, and the more nuanced and subtle the performance, the more highly regarded the performer. The novel’s conceit is that a wealthy factory owner is prepared to endow a new production of The Moon Opera, which has not been performed for two decades; however, the factory owner’s stipulation is that the production must star the lead female singer who performed it previously. She, though, has essentially retired from the stage and is now a singing teacher. The story, then, becomes the story of this prima donna’s attempt to recapture the role and her former fame, and what she learns about her true legacy to the Peking opera. At once a sad and lovely story. --Brad Hooper

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Jackson VINE VOICE on March 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu opens Xiao Yanqiu, elegant star of the troupe, disfigures her understudy by throwing a cup of boiling water into her face. This action shuts down the production of the opera and for a second time The Moon Opera is stopped from being performed. Xiao Yanqui is disgraced and retires to teaching and marriage to an average working man. Twenty years later, a tobacco factory manager wants to sponsor a production of The Moon Opera and insists that he wants his idol, Xiao Yanqui, to play the lead role of Chang'e, the moon goddess, or he will withdraw his financial support for the production. Will the third attempt actually result in getting this opera in front of an audience? Will Xiao at forty, and being away from the stage for twenty years, be able to perform the intricate songs and most importantly, how will Xiao react to her understudy?

While the reader is engaged in following Xiao as she becomes the immortal moon goddess, both on and off the stage, this novel takes you behind the scenes into the world of the Peking opera and the interconnection of art and commerce in the Chinese culture. The glossary at the back of the book helps the reader understand the terms and roles of a Chinese opera troupe.

This is an engaging story that can easily be enjoyed in one reading. The language while spare is descriptive. As I read this book it was like watching a Chinese movie unfold, and my emotions ranged from being curious to sympathetic to pity for Xiao. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Chinese opera or any reader that would like to escape into a world that is not well known.

Reviewed by Beverly
APOOO BookClub
March 2, 2009
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Format: Hardcover
Twenty years after her shameful exit from the stage and the closing of the opera, Xiao Yanqiu is given a fresh chance to play the lead role in The Moon Opera. She is incredibly talented, but her late journey back to stardom will be fraught with difficulty and doubt. As short and delicate and the protragonist's life is wild and long, The Moon Opera can be difficult to connect to but still offers a deep story and a fascinating protragonist. I recommend it.

The novel begins with a rocky start: it opens in the troupe leader's point of the view, but the rest of the book takes place from Yanqiu's point of view, and the changes between the two makes it difficult to connect to the protagonist from the start. The storytelling too makes it difficult to connect: the language is sparse and the timeline jumps between events from Yanqiu's past and the progression of the opera, highlighting her mercurial mood and nature along with the key moments of her life. And the book is short, nearly short enough to read in one sitting--and so as soon as it begins, it ends, and the reader has little time to connect to the character or contemplate the story as a whole.

But if he does--if he pauses in his readings, or thinks back upon the book--there's a lot to be had. As changeable as water, flowing, freezing, crashing; with such great skill that she carries the potential of the whole opera within her, Yanqiu is an incredible protagonist. She is faulted, and wild, and incredibly real even as she is magical, and so her journey towards becoming Chang'e--the opera's protagonist--is full of wonder and fear. The sparse language is atmospheric; the jumping timeline allows for perfect detail in each event it features. The book still feels too short, but the brief journey is still wonderful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Niksic VINE VOICE on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
During a performance of the "The Moon Opera," jealous performer Xiao Yanqiu throws boiling water into the face of her understudy, disfiguring her castmate and ruining her own promising career. Twenty years later, Xiao Yanqiu is given a chance to return to the opera stage and portray lead role of Chang'e in a revival of "The Moon Opera." Xiao Yanqiu becomes completely consumed with the idea of reclaiming her place in the spotlight, and even selects one of her own students as her understudy in an attempt to control her surroundings. However, history begins to repeat itself when Xiao Yanqiu's student shows signs of much promise. There can only be one Chang'e at a time, and the question remains ...does Xiao Yanqiu still have what it takes to stay at the top?

This is a very small novel and a very quick read. The book starts out being narrated from the perspective of the drama troupe leader and then switches to Xiao Yanqiu's point of view, which is a bit confusing and disrupts the otherwise smooth flow of the story. However, once Xiao Yanqiu takes over the narration, everything is golden. "The Moon Opera" is a simple story that revolves around a very complicated woman. It was a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it.
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