The Midsummer's Voice

European Premiere | In Competition | White Mulberry Award Candidate


Guest Star: ZHANG Yudi, director


Like western opera, Chinese opera is rapidly losing its public, especially among young people. Television, cinema, and the internet are gradually decreeing the end of a thousand- year-old tradition that now only survives among a handful of aficionados. But the film The Midsummer’s Voice presents an unusual, contemporary and more dynamic image of opera than previous films dealing with the same subject, focusing on the experience of young people who still study this ancient art, in a fascinating mix of youth and tradition.

The film, developed by director and screenwriter Zhang Yudi – who studied filmmaking in the United States – from her own 2019 short film of the same title and which successfully ran at several international festivals, is basically a coming-of-age-story that adds a distinctive narrative element to the predictable teenage torment, that of the vocal mutation that leads to a deeper voice during puberty. This change, more evident in males, is very problematic for practitioners of traditional Chinese opera, as it compromises the ability to sing in the key necessary for some of the most important roles.

The plot, impeccably performed by real-life young opera singers, revolves around the student Sun Xiaolei, the son of a theatre costume designer – played by renowned Peking Opera singer Song Xiaochuan, who also took part in the film as an opera supervisor; Xiaolei has a relationship with him which ranges from dependence, admiration, and also fear. Xiaolei would like to emulate his grandfather, revered by his father and celebrated among Beijing opera practitioners for his ability to sing in falsetto, and obsessively listens to recordings of him. But puberty is just around the corner, and with it the discovery of sexuality, the sense of inadequacy, the existential angst typical of adolescence, but above all the fear of no longer being able to sing falsetto.

He is not alone in this crisis: his classmates are going through equally challenging experiences.
In particular, the two who Xiaolei finds himself sharing a long summer with: Shi Jiahui, an androgynous-looking female student who is artistically gifted, disciplined and rigorous but going through a period of sexual confusion and Xie Tianchi, the sexy and rebellious son of a famous Peking Opera singer, who is no longer sure he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. The three have to take part in end-of-year recitals that keep them in a constant state of anxiety – especially Xiaolei who has a great fear of disappointing his father. In theory, they are rivals because they aspire to the same theatrical roles, but at the same time they are united – perhaps unwittingly – in a quasi-love triangle. They are youngsters who have to juggle between modern life and tradition; the contradictions they experience on a daily basis are exemplified in a brilliant scene in a disco where the music, costumes and dance steps of Opera blend with those of pop music in an exciting and somewhat utopian mix. Although they have different personalities and priorities, they are united by the usual teen angst; the film evokes memories of summer holidays at the end of a long, tough school year, those in which youthful exuberance was accompanied by fear but also by the desire to finally become adults.

Maria Barbieri
Film director: ZHANG Yudi
Year: 2023
Running time: 105'
Country: China
28/04 - 4:15 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
28-04-2024 16:15 28-04-2024 18:00Europe/Rome The Midsummer's Voice Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine