A major production of an opera five years in the making is happening this week in Taipei. The Black Bearded Bible Man is a bilingual English-Taiwanese production chronicling the life of the Reverend George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901), a Canadian missionary and one of the best-known foreigners in Taiwan’s history.
Mackay was responsible for founding Oxford College (now Aletheia University) in Tām-súi (Danshui), named after his home in Oxford County, modern-day Ontario. The Mackay Memorial Hospital, reputedly one of the best in Taipei, is the successor institution to one started by Mackay, who started his ministry by pulling teeth and preaching in towns in the north of Taiwan.
The Canadian of Scottish extraction was a fiery character, dedicated to his cause and seemingly caring little for what others thought of him – something exemplified by his marriage to a local woman, Tuiⁿ Chhang-miâ (known as Minnie), which shocked both the Taiwanese community and the folks back home in Canada.
The part of Mackay is being played by Thomas Meglioranza, who is writing about the preparations (and experiences singing in a new language – Taiwanese) on his blog. The opera is running from 27th-30th November at the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center in Taipei.