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Hello all,

This July 2016 will be the final month for this blog.

It’s been a great few years of putting videos online and researching performer names and opera story-lines but a web site is a full time occupation and now I am a bit tired of the responsibility involved and want to concentrate on other things, in particular novel writing.

The written content here will not be lost, I still have the domain name for a while which will point to a zip file much like we did with Fern’s Ear Candy a while back. The immense video content I will probably try to post on archive.org as time and inspiration permits.

I would like to give special thanks to Fern (Nora) and Géza for being such patient and kind friends.

My only regret is that I still do not speak Mandarin.

Peace and Love to all!

Mei Baojiu

Above: Mei Baojiu. Below: Li Shiji.

Li Shiji

Fern writes:

Sad news in the Beijing Opera world lately, Mei Baojiu (son of Mei Lanfang) and Li Shiji (adopted daughter of Cheng Yankiu), both highly respected Peking Opera performers themselves, passed away recently.

There is a nice English language biography of Mei Baojiu here. His role as teacher cannot be underestimated. A brief English bio of Li Shiji here.

Below a photo of Zhang Huoding at Li Shiji’s funeral.

Zhang Huoding at Li Shiji's funeral

More encouraging news, Fern has been exercising and has lost 14 kgs.We are jealous.

It’s the best time of the year!

Cheers to all!

(originally published on: May 23, 2010)

According to the Fleeting Spectator blog, “Wang Rongrong (王蓉蓉) is an exhilarating performer. Wang’s performance lights up the house, which evidently includes a lot of her rabid fans. Time and again the whole crowd stands on its feet, roaring with approval and completely awed by Wang’s vocal agility and dramatic acuity.

Kind of makes you want to see her in action, right? Well, here she is, in a full length opera with excellent video and sound.

The synopsis of opera Qin Xiang Lian:

Sometime during the Song Dynasty, a couple, Lady Qin Xiang Lian and Sir Chen Shimei have two lovely children. Chen travels afar to the Imperial City to take part in the Imperial Examination. He is noticed there after passing  the Examination with first honour. Unexpectedly, he ends up marrying the Princess!

Three years later, Qin and her children come a long way to the Imperial City to find Chen. Chen refuses to recognize them and even sends his servant Han Qi to kill his own wife and children. Stunned by the truth, the executioner Han lets Lady Qin and her children go and kills himself instead. Qin goes to Kai Feng city to ask the justice from Judge Bao. Judge Bao order Chen to face the verdict in the court. Without regret, Chen still refuses to admit his crime. Unmoved by the pleads of the Princess and the Empress, Judge Bao puts Chen to death.

The opera is very easy to follow. In Part One, Qin Xiang Lian does not accept quickly that her husband is a lowdown, good-for-nothing bigamist who bagged himself a princess!

Part two is more compelling as the servant Han Qi confronts the wife and children to slay them. His pantomimed suicide is spectacular (and must hurt for real !)

Overall, Wang Rongrong is in superb voice, hitting very pleasing high notes indeed. Notice as well her excellent hand movements throughout. 3 minutes before the end of the opera, as her character is handed a red box indicating her husband has been executed, she sings as if with tears in her eyes, the music accompaniment stops, and she hits the highest note of all (she really loved the bum). Bliss!

The cast for this video: Wang Rongrong, Li Weikang, Geng Qichang, Li Mingyan and it was recorded at the Air Theater in Hong Kong. The two video files are in .RMVB format, playable with VLC.

Click here to download Part One of the video   

File size of Part 1 is 323 MB.

Click here to download Part Two of the video

File size of Part 2 is 309 MB.

Watch this opera and enjoy seeing the weasel taken away to reap his just desserts!

If you liked Wang Rongrong in this video, one of her CDs is available for sale in North America through Amazon.com.

See you next time.

(originally published on: Apr 16, 2010)

Download the video here.

Here is a repost of one of my dozen top picks from all the posts on this web site.

It’s a brief two minute clip of the top two Beijing Opera stars Li Shengsu 李胜素 and Yu Kuizhi 于魁智 singing the famous aria from the opera 《四郎探母》Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother).

This is one of the most well-known arias in the Chinese repertoire. An  English subtitled video of the complete opera featuring these two artists (along with one of my favorite actresses, Li Haiyan 李海燕, playing the evil mother-in-law Empress Meng) can be found here.

The video is from a live concert, excerpted from the Spring of the Pear Garden Operatic School Concert of Graduates Region 5 only DVD that my friend Zach purchased for me in China.

This is an mp4 extension video, and the file size is 60 MB.

Enjoy!

Bertrand

(reposted from: Apr 5, 2010)

You can download the libretti in PDF here.

This is an insert to the 1973 tour book containing (at least some of) the words in both English and Chinese to the following operas:

  • Slaying of Yen Liang (Chan Yen Liang)
  • The White Serpent (Chin Shan Szu)
  • The Paper Man (Chin Tung Yu Nu)
  • Two Loyal Officials (Erh Chin Kung)
  • The Monkey King (The Monkey King)
  • At the River Ford (Han Tsin K’ou)
  • The Cowherd and the Village Girl (Hsiao Fang Niu)

The file is about 20 MB.

Enjoy!

See you next time,

Bertrand

A web site is a full time job! I just fixed the links for all the photos on this one today.

(originally published on: May 7, 2011)

Today I am presenting a 2 1/2 hour concert featuring several exciting female Beijing Opera stars performing arias. The concert concludes with Li Shengsu, the foremost performer of the genre.

This file is in .AVI format, of 922MB in size, and can be played using VLC.

I’m really excited about this one, but it took quite a long time for me to post this because I needed help in identifying the performers. The following notes were kindly prepared by Fern.

All kinds of flowers are fragrant

Li Guojing Li Guojing (李国静) – On the Dock (海港)
Shanghai Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, mainly Mei school, also Shang school

 

Lü Huimin

Lü Huimin (吕慧敏) – Selling Water (卖水), Peach Blossom Village (桃花村)
China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class huadan, Xun school


Zhang Yanling

Zhang Yanling (张艳玲) – Princess of Shuangyang (双阳公主), Han Ming Fei (汉明妃)
Tianjin Beijing Opera Theater, first class qingyi and daomadan, Shang school

 

Liu Guijuan

Liu Guijuan (刘桂娟) – Chen Sanliang (陈三两), The Great Enthronement (大登殿)
Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe, first class qingyi, Cheng school

 

Zhang Huifang

Zhang Huifang (张慧芳) – 2 excerpts from Xie Yaohuan (谢瑶环)
Hubei Beijing Opera Theater, first class qingyi, huashan, Zhang school

 

Zhang Ping

Zhang Ping (张萍) – Qiu Jin (秋瑾), Hong Yun Gang (modern opera) (红云岗)
Beijing Military Region Comrades-in-Arms Cultural Troupe, first class dan, Zhang
school

 

Zhao Xiujun

Zhao Xiujun (赵秀君) – Number One Scholar as Matchmaker (状元媒), 2 excerpts from Romance of the West Chamber (西厢记)
Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe, first class qingyi, Zhang school

 

Liu Wei

Liu Wei (刘薇) – Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian (春秋配), Su San Sent Out Under Guard
(苏三起解)
Head of Wuhan Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, Huang school (founded by
Huang Guiqiu)

 

Deng Min

Deng Min (邓敏) – Turandot (图兰朵), Female Generals of the Yang Family (杨门女将)
China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class dan, Mei school

 

Li Haiyan

Li Haiyan (李海燕) – Zhu Yingtai Resists Marriage (英台抗婚), The Unicorn Purse (锁麟囊)
Head of China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class qingyi,
Cheng school

 

Li Jie

Li Jie (李洁) – Tale of the White Snake (白蛇传)
Jiangsu Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, Mei school

 

Chi Xiaoqiu

Chi Xiaoqiu (迟小秋) – The Unicorn Purse (锁麟囊), Su San Sent Out Under Guard (苏三起解),
The Unicorn Purse again
Beijing Peking Opera Theater, head of Beijing Peking Opera Theater Youth Troupe,
first class qingyi, Cheng school

 

Li Shengsu

Li Shengsu (李胜素) – The Unofficial Biography of Taizhen (太真外传), Mu Guiying Takes
Command (穆桂英挂帅), Remorse at Death (生死恨)
Head of China National Peking Opera Company 1st Troupe, first class qingyi,
huashan, Mei school

I hope I haven’t skipped anyone.

 

Thank you very much, Fern! Now for my own observations

It is apparent that out of make-up, some of these performers clearly struggle hard to hit their notes. Beijing Opera is not easy to sing.

I admit I am more than partial to female singers. Picking a favourite among these performances is like asking a 7 year old what is the best chocolate in a candy store!

I will say that although she was possibly the least photogenic, and did not gesture much, I was most impressed with the POWERFUL voice of Li Haiyan. By the screen shots above you can see the same microphone was used for all the performers and they were all standing at the same distance from it. However Li Haiyan’s voice is the only section in the concert where the microphone buzzes for ten minutes: her voice is too loud! She is a sort of hybrid, a bit of coloratura soprano with a deep voice that carries far, along with great Beijing Opera throat control. This made her a stand out, in my opinion. (Since this was originally posted 4 years ago, I learned Li Haiyan is a member of the first National Troupe, most often partnering with Li Shengsu and Yu Kuizi —  Haiyan is a truly superb artist who has starred in many operas).

Deng Min was the most interesting to look at, obviously a very skilled actress. She much be superb in make-up and costume.

Best dressed was Liu Wei.

Zhao Xiujun is a ringer for Julia Pine, former guitarist of Ottawa punk band Last Prayer. Hi, Julia!

Li Shengsu is not allowed to leave after two tunes, and is chased back on stage to do one more number than the other performers.

The lighting is not optimal in this concert. Nor is the color in the video I think, I played with the video hue and saturation in VLC to get a picture I liked.

The video can be downloaded here.

Enjoy the “Flowers Fragrant” and see you next time !

(update note: here is the original comment for this post)

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks a lot for this concert!I also don’t know much about Li Haiyan, but she’s assigned to the same position (just in 2nd Troupe)as Li Shengsu, I bet the National Peking Opera Company is careful in picking its leaders.I think you hit the nail on its head with the words “most interesting” about Deng Min – previously she learned wusheng and knows two plays with massive splits and leg-over-the-head ligament hurting moves, too bad I never seen her doing those!
    And now she comes up with Turandot. Truly interesting. :)Comment by Fern — May 8, 2011 @ 12:00 am |Edit This

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