Zhao Huan 赵欢

2014-03-01 Zhao Huan Place Des Arts

Above, Zhao Huan on 2014-03-01 at Place Des Arts in Montreal in “The Revenge of Prince Zidan”.

Before the show, we ate a Leméac on Laurier close to Du Parc, an absolutely splendid French restaurant with superlative cuisine and service.

We showed up an hour early for the jingju briefing in French, with out of costume demonstrations by Mr. Li… didn’t catch his first name and it’s not in the program. Very nice and humorous. Someone videotaped it, I hope they post it.

I have to say, what a nice crowd, a nice mix of older francophones and a very sharp looking younger anglophone contingent. Only one lady right behind me kept snickering each time the queen spoke because of the Beijing Opera mannerisms. Other than that, enthusiastic applause.

Unfortunately the seats were a third full at best. Minimal to no publicity beforehand. The cast was not identified anywhere except in the production credits of the “Spectacular China” event brochure, along with musicians and organizers listed alphabetically by name without function. And yet, the performers gave their all.

The play was absolutely brilliant in person after seeming a bit ho-hum on video. The exact same cast as the video from what I can tell. Fu Xiru was awesome. There were two translations displayed for the show, one in French which translated the Chinese prose, very interesting, and one in English which was directly from Shakespeare. I thought reading both added extra depth to the play, but English-speaking only attendees might have missed out a bit.

I sat third row right next to the stage, and was repeatedly about 20 feet from Zhao Huan. I did not read the translations while she was singing. Initially she had a noticeable issue with some low notes, but once past that she splendid overall. I was so excited I forgot the camera in the car. The stage photos on this post are by my better half, Johanne, with her Android phone. She always takes better pictures than I do anyway.

Actress Guo Ruiyue 郭睿玥 as Hamlet’s mom had a towering voice and impressive volume. She unexpected hit the highest notes of the evening. Bravo! No, wait… Hao!

Guo Ruiyue

This version of the production was tuned a bit, it did not include the “prince of the netherworld” painted face role, which, in retrospect was a bolt-on and not really useful to the story.

2014-03-01 curtain_call

(click on above picture to zoom in, nice one!)

Sadly, I was unable to catch the performers after the show. Numerous reasons why. I can list a few off. We had to drive back 300 km in a minor blizzard and I had to get up early. We had spent the day at Ikea first. Place Des Arts is a sprawling complex with US airport-like security. My wife might not have understood why I wanted to stalk a nice little Asian lady for an autograph. There was a very strange rave event in the streets with light shows mixing colors into the falling snow right outside Place des Arts and the performers might have wanted to walk out and go see that instead of me. C’est la guerre, what can I say.

Yet, a memory I shall always cherish.

A behind the scenes video in French I couldn’t rip at:


logo Shanghai Troupe

musicians for performance

(updated 2014-04-06)

And here is another backstage video I could rip made by Montreal newspaper The Gazette:

Click here to download video (6 MB)

Wang Guojian

Prince Zidan

Here comes Zhao Huan performing in Prince Zidan, or Zi Dan or Hamlet or whatever you want to call it, at Place Des Arts in Montreal next week. It was advertised in the papers (Le Devoir) yesterday.

Fern confirmed last night it looks like the troupe would most likely include Zhao Huan, my favorite Cheng School actress from Shanghai.

Zhao Huan

Heck, it’s only 300 km away in the dead of a Canadian winter. Single ticket was inexpensive, I’m at the front second row a bit to the right.  Yay!

We posted a video of this opera a while back here. It’s a modern costumed Beijing Opera hybrid. Who cares, it’s Zhao Huan!

Weather should be around -15 C, but it feels colder in Montreal as it is humid on the island. Light snow and heart palpitations predicted.

Zhao Huan

swiped from a taobao site!


Zhao Huan

(above: Zhao Huan)

Again, verbatim from Fern’s post here:

Title: 李文敏教学生活五十年纪念 – Celebrating Li Wenmin’s 50-year teaching career
Location: Chang’an Grand Theatre, Beijing
Date: 11-12 October 2013
Four classic Cheng school plays were staged on the 11th, and three the next day.
12 October:
《四郎探母·坐宫》Silang Tan Mu – Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace from Silang Visits His Mom) – 沙霏 Sha Fei,  马博通 Ma Botong
《贺后骂殿》He Hou Ma Dian (Empress He Accuses the Usurper) – 李丽 Li Li, 陈圣杰 Chen Shengjie
《汾河湾》Fenhewan (Fen River Bay) – 赵欢 Zhao Huan, 凌珂 Ling Ke, 许周熠 Xu Zhouyi

Click here to download Part One of the video

Click here to download Part Two of the video


Thank you Fern! Thank you China!

Zhao Huan


Special thanks to Vidown for its cooperation.

According to the Ear Candy post here, Wang Peiyu performed  this opera,《审头刺汤》Shen Tou Ci Tang (Examining the Head, Murdering Tang) on 2013-06-29 at the Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre. Just for the record, I like Fern’s translation of the opera’s title better than Google Translate’s. It has nothing to do with goats(!), but indeed with a disembodied head.

Also in the cast are Yan Qing Gu (严庆谷), one of my favorites Zhao Huan (赵欢), Chen Yu (陈宇), Wu Xiangjun (吴响军) and Zhang Haifeng (张海峰).

This was broadcast on the CCTV Theater on the Air last week on 2013-11-02.

It’s fun seeing Zhao Huan in a new role. (At last!) Wang Peiyu is in fine form here too.

Anyhow, I love opera season! Even though it means snow on the ground where I am.

Wang Peiyu

Click here for Part 1 of the video

mp4 file format, 495 MB file size

Click here for Part 2 of the video

328 MB


Zhao Huan


Here are the final files of the Dan Roles. Zhao Huan is one of my favorites, and we discussed this set with Fern last year when she posted the download links here. http://megapoxy.net/wordpress/?p=9628

Zhao Huan is an artist in the making. She is a splendid performer, but she seems a bit too comfortable following a pattern established by others. Her performances last year were not as memorable for me as the year before. Am I still a fan? Naturally.

The original file names were:

《CCTV空中剧院》 20120421 第五届青研班毕业汇报演出 京剧旦角经典折子戏专场 1/2
《CCTV空中剧院》 20120421 第五届青研班毕业汇报演出 京剧旦角经典折子戏专场 2/2

The players:

京剧《遇皇后》 Meeting the Empress – Li Hong (李宏), Wang Jiaqing (王嘉庆), Rui Zhenqi (芮振起); Ding Sheng (丁胜), Jia Zenghui (贾增辉)
京剧《汾河湾》 Fen River Bay – Zhao Huan (赵欢), Ling Ke (凌珂); Liu Lei (刘磊), Sun Yong (孙永), Chen Yang (陈洋)
京剧《游龙戏凤》 Emperor Zhengde Meets Li Fengjie – Zhang Xuan (张璇), Du Zhe (杜喆); Wang Xi (王曦), Wang Jihui (王继辉)
京剧《陈三两》 Chen Sanliang – Zhou Jing (周婧), Zhang Bing (张兵), Xu Mengke (徐孟珂), Jin Zhiqi (靳智棋); Wang Xi (王曦), Xiang Manjing (祥满静)

Download part one of the video here

Download part two of the video here

Second Night


I’m still reeling on Sunday afternoon from two back to back office Xmas parties, one on Friday night for my job where our spouses were not invited, and the very next night on Saturday for my wife’s workplace where spouses were invited. The latter started off with at least 4 glasses of champagne in a row and half a dozen simply delicious rolls of salami with cream cheese in the middle and a sour sweet pickle… In short, “Where am I? How did I get here?”

The big news right now is that Fern is planning a trip to Beijing. She’ll be there in February for a few weeks right on time for the Spring Festival. I don’t expect she’ll be blogging much while she is on the loose there, but I am pretty sure she’ll be seeing as many Beijing Operas and hobnobbing with as many performers as she possibly can. I would be very surprised if I don’t see a CCTV opera video in 2013 with a tall blonde sitting in the front rows with two big bags of popcorn on her lap and a powerful camera around her neck.

Looking back on this year, this blog has brought me a lot of non-alcoholic good cheer, the best kind I might add (oh, my aching head). Fern did such splendid posts http://www.music-china.org asked last week if they could reproduce her great reference piece on Beijing Opera roles. One of these days, we should think about writing a book together, Fern. Now there’s a five year plan.

And now for Part Two of Qingyi Disney!

As I mentioned in a previous post, the high point of the past year in Beijing Opera for me has been this year’s CCTV Jingju contest, where the best new performers of each role in China competed against each other in front of judges. The order in which these performers are presented is a bit arranged for good TV programming rather than luck of the draw. I like this, each of these shows have a lot of surprises as well as variety.

Cai Xiaoying

First is Cai Xiaoying (蔡筱滢) of the Shanghai Jingju Theater singing from opera《春秋配》 Chun Qiu Pei (Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian).

I’m not familiar with this performer, but she comes from Shanghai, home of the most exciting Beijing Opera performers in China today. Quite dramatically, her voice cracks on her very first intervention. High drama nerves!

She comes in wearing tasteful shades of jade. “Green represents the east and wood, as well as spring and youth.” (Alexandra Bonds, “Beijing Opera Costumes” page 70). There are some very fine embroideries on her sleeves too, also in jade, which look like stains at first when you watch the video. But no, these are details in the costume so fine pretty much only the performer herself can see them.

She sings in a deep tone, a bit like Li Haiyan, with a devilishly skilful tremolo at the onset.

erhu solist

Her erhu player with striking hands pulls off exceptional notes at 16:30 which draw applause.

Overall though, I thought this performance dragged and lacked a bit of electricity. I thought the judge’s eye-liner was more riveting:

Jeepers creepers, where did you get those eyes?

But really, you should never listen to me. Even I don’t listen to me when I tell myself two glasses of champagne is enough.

Technical humbug: the sound is not loud on this video, but it could be my computer’s fault. I just upgraded to Ubuntu 12, hated the new desktop, then downgraded to the Fallback desktop. Even the picture on my screen is not a nice as it used to be. In January right after the holidays I will be changing to Linux Mint 14 and these problems might go away.

Zhang Ruilin

Second is Zhang Ruilin (张蕊麟) of the Tianjin Youth Jingju Troupe singing from opera《昭君出塞》 Zhaojun Chu Sai (Wang Zhaojun Departs to the Frontier).

In her opening credits, with hair askew, Zhang Ruilin’s photo looks like the mug shot of a bank hold up accomplice:

Zhang Ruiling

But appearances are deceiving! One of the qualities of a really fine Beijing Opera performer is that you are grabbed by them doing almost nothing. Zhang Ruilin entering grabbed me like that. Wearing one of the most beautiful headdresses imaginable, she saunters in at 33:00, floats poetically as she pauses and then keeps going, and I am gripped as if I was watching the climax of a Hitchcock thriller.

Zhang Ruilin

Breathtaking moves is the name of the game here. Her elaborate intro choreography just keeps going and going. She really puts on a show.

Her voice is not unique, but she controls it well at the onset. Unfortunately by 42:00 after her strenuous routine she is noticeably out of breath. Perhaps she should have shortened the workout. Still, it does not matter. This is really memorable. The musical arrangements are unusual and the three performers sing together at 47:00 which is very rare.

I don’t know this opera, which seems steeped in folklore, but the source material looks terribly exciting judging from this first class, top notch, at times mind boggling, right up there in the stars performance.

Whew, I’m exhausted. No need to go on, show’s over, right?

What? There’s more??

Zhao Huan

Third is Zhao Huan (赵欢) of the Shanghai Jingju Theater for whom I have very strong bias going in, I’m a really big fan! By the way Fern, we were discussing what souvenirs you could pick up for me in Beijing. I was thinking, how about an autographed stage slipper from Zhao Huan? That would be nice. 😉 In the video, she is singing from the opera《春闺梦》Chun Gui Meng (Dream in a Girl’s Chamber).

This opera selection is about as predictable as my response to having my champagne glass refilled. But in my heart, she is is singing it only for me.

On the down side, I have to say: in my honest opinion, Zhang Huoding’s version of this same scene is imitated here, and not surpassed. Not even close!

Li Shanshan

Part Two of the video opens with the fourth contestant, Li Shanshan (李珊珊) of the Tianjin Jingju Theater singing from《穆桂英挂帅》Mu Guiying Guashuai (Mu Guiying Takes Command).

This fine featured and quite expressive contestant does not make a dramatic entrance, she starts out standing there. She has a classic voice and delivery, a solidly traditional approach, perfect posture, she moves splendidly, and she is excellent.

Li Shanshan is a thoroughbred race horse in the Kentucky Derby. She is so synchronised to the accompaniment she looks almost mechanical. Li Shanshan has all the technique, delivery and charisma necessary to become the next Li Shengsu. She’s the real deal. As she hits her high notes, a head dress ornament falls off right on cue at 17:52.

I can find a lot of tiny faults in Zhao Huan’s delivery in this show, but certainly not with Li Shanshan’s. I really hope to see Li Shanshan in a full-length opera as soon as possible. If I saw this performance in a small theatre close up, I would feel like the luckiest person in the world.

And the judges place her fourth, which I totally and absolutely disagree with. What?! Did she sing all the wrong words to the arias?! No no no no no. No way, no how. This is a first or close second place performance.

Zhang Qian

Fifth is Zhang Qian (张倩) of the Shandong College of Arts singing from《望江亭》Wangjiangting (Riverside Pavilion).

Her intro video shows a bad complexion, but her voice is awesome. She easily hits an impressive high note right from the start. A performer prettier out of costume than in costume, she has powerful volume and the microphone buzzes often as a result.

Pan Xin

Finally, sixth is Pan Xin (潘欣) of the Hubei Jingju Theater singing from 《洛神赋》 Luoshen Fu (Ode to the Goddess of Luo River). Pan Xin has the most interesting talking voice of all six contestants in the pre show, very husky.

When she starts singing, however, Mei school! Very high pitched. I didn’t see that coming.

She has a superb profile, a wonderful nose and lovely features. The aria is slow tempo and she moves slowly. Is her costume embroidered? That is almost unbelievable. If it is, it’s a museum piece.

In concusion, my favorites for this show were Zhang Ruilin in second place and Li Shanshan absolutely in first place. Boos and hisses to the judges.

As for Zhao Huan, well, I’m willing to forget what I saw in exchange for that stage slipper.

Before wrapping up, I would like to mention that to write this post, I relied quite a bit on Fern’s writings here and here. 谢谢 Fern!

Download Part One of the video here

Download Part Two of the video here

I’ll avoid saying, “Cheers!” today and instead end this post with, “Peace and love, take care!”

Zhao Huan and husband Wang Xilong (wusheng)

My current crush, Zhao Huan, and her brand new husband Wang Xilong from just a few days ago. Thank you to Fern for the photo which came from here. Fern adds that Wang Xilong is a wusheng Beijing Opera singer as well.

This might never  have happened had I been in China!!!


Oh well, congratulations to the new couple! Many more operas, please.

Fu Xiru as Hamlet

I’ve been meaning to post this for two weeks, but I am a bit scatter-brained these days. Too much Easter chocolate! Too much dessert!

Today we have a video of the Beijing Opera version of Hamlet starring Fu Xiru (傅希如) and Zhao Huan (赵欢) as Hamlet and Ophelia respectively. I posted an excerpt from this opera shot from the audience recently, this time this is a TV production shot in Shanghai. A very interesting hybrid jingju opera leaning resolutely toward the traditional but with fun elements thrown in.

I guess this is the production Fern missed in Edinburgh, titled as “The Revenge of Prince Zidan”.

This is not the first Asian twist of Hamlet, according to wikipedia the play was adapted kabuki-style and presented in Japan over a century ago.

Fu Xiru is a favourite of Fern’s and she has blogged often about him. This was the first time I really discovered him. I thought he was just a local media darling who was a bit of a foolish trickster, but he is in fact a first-class actor who performs back breaking physical stunts at the drop of a hat. He is not as high pitched as Jin Xiquan, but he is charismatic with a good voice and is spectacularly acrobatic. Here he is holding his leg up:

Fu Xiru

Here he is crouching AND holding his leg up:

Fu Xiru

I tried this myself today in my living room… NOT! Saying he is “supple” is almost ridiculous in this context. Somersaults, sidestepping over long distances on one foot James Brown style, spectacular crashes to the floor, Fu can do! He will play Hamlet with quite a lot of swagger and arrogance. He barks at other actors often.

The opera opens with the cemetery scene where the ghost of Hamlet’s father will reveal to him that he was murdered. A bit confusing here: there are two painted faces, making it hard to figure out who was the ghost of the father. This one is “prince of the netherworld”:


And this is Hamlet’s dead father returned as a ghost:


Needless to say, my eyes were on Zhao Huan, the Cheng school marvel, wondering whether her part and her material would be memorable. Unfortunately in this opera, she is a secondary player and sings only briefly in Part One.

Zhao Huan

Her opening aria at 40 minutes is a bit marred by successive video glitches, but she displays noticeably good control between 41:00 and 42:00. The duet that follows is quite atypical for a Beijing opera. Normally everyone takes turns singing, they do not sing together. Fu Xiru’s microphone is a bit louder than hers at the onset.

Hamlet rails in anger, Ophelia loves him regardless. His shouting and pushing Ophelia down to the floor is also “definitely not Beijing Opera”. Still, the scene is very well acted and interesting to watch.

Follows the preparation for the “play within a play”, where Hamlet asks actors to re-enact in court as “fiction” an assassination identical to his father’s in order to see his uncle’s reaction. Part one of the video ends rather abruptly.

Part Two shows the play within the play, admirable in the way its actors imitate marionettes on a string, a wonderful find and a superb analogy. Naturally the new king flees in dread at the sight of his re-enacted crime.

There are a couple of odd moments. One that struck me was Hamlet hovering behind his uncle with sword raised, hesitating to do him in.

The queen gets a lengthy Mei style aria at around 15:00 in, followed by a confrontation with her son where he pretty much spits every word at her. The dwarf is done in. Hamlet talks to his father’s ghost and his mother thinks him mad. It’s a tragedy!

Ophelia returns to pick flowers, now mad with grief. Zhao Huan sings a beautiful acapella number that is all too brief. Follows the introduction of the henchman (Laertes) who is hired by the king to assassinate Hamlet, and Ophelia sings her farewell aria, Zhao Huan’s finest moment in this opera. At 37:27, she matter-of-factly does a neat trick of folding her water sleeve by whipping it up and stabbing into it.

Fu Xiru sings extremely well in turn and the gravedigger scene scene follows. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.

Fu Xiru

Ophelia’s funeral procession arrives. She has drowned in mysterious circumstances. Queen Gertrude sprinkles flowers on her. “Sweets to the sweet. Farewell!

Fern looked over my shoulder as I was slowly piecing this post together, reminding me that the rest of the cast for this play was:

Guo Ruiyue 郭睿玥 as Hamlet’s mom,

Chen Yu 陈宇 as the evil uncle (Claudius),

Yan Qinggu 严庆谷 as the dwarf (Polonius),

Liu Dake 刘大可 plays Pan Guan, the underworld judge (both Fern and I thought he was great),

Geng Lu 耿露 (who is a girl!) plays the ghost daddy (photo below):

Geng lu

I found this play very visual, with interesting sets, lighting and fog effects. Like I said it is experimental, quite  a bit western in feel at certain moments, and should be viewed as such. The story was a bit too familiar, which I think was a bit of a drawback. I find I am fascinated by Chinese Opera thinking and stories, and of course here we followed Shakespeare’s logic like a train on rails.

The volume on these videos is loud, be careful to lower it on your computer before starting. Overall sound and video are very good, except when there is fast movement, causing the video to blur a bit. The video also has occasional splicing glitches, but we’ve seen worse. Anyhow, if and when a better copy comes along, we’ll post it.


Click here to download Hamlet part 1

Click here to download Hamlet part 2

And (patent pending), enjoy!

Zhao Huan

Well the car lost a hub cap in the springtime “hen’s nest” pot holes on the Quebec City streets, the son caught a cold and I lost a day of work watching over his fever, my work website that I kept for ten years is now gone for good, there was record hot temperatures all over North Am and here as well (20 degrees C in March!), the hot water hater leaked overnight and I was up until 2 in the morning salvaging old books from water damage, then the plumbers came in at 7 in the morning to emergency replace the tank this morning (that’s what I call “Fern hours”), Benjamin is pestering me every three minutes to go to Walmart so we can buy printer ink and he can look at the Transformers in the toy section…  All in all, I guess it was a normal week here over at the asylum.

Let’s talk about something else now, something nice, i.e. Zhao Huan again. Here’s a nice half hour video program from 2010-07-26 with our favorite MC, Zhang Zhe, interviewing ma nouvelle favorite to ask about her influences (I can’t speak Mandarin yet, but she did mention “Zhang Huoding” twice in a row) and set up two opera excerpts. The first is from “The Empress scolds the Emperor” and the second one is from “Dream in a Girl’s Chamber.”

Zhao Huan

It’s a very nice and surprisingly small mp4 video, only 79 MB.

Click here to download the video

In the first clip, Zhao Huan wear a black nupi, the colour of righteousness, demonstrating impressive control between 5:30 and 6:00. It’s also clear she’s been studying the moves. At 8:28 with the camera position, she seems to stride three inches above ground. It’s good and important for this singer to do plays that have not been done over and over in the recent past.

In the second clip, the Girl’s Chamber now has a garden door and a really big terrace outside. As Billy Crystal would say, “this is the new indoors”.

Big terrace

I posted an excerpt from Zhang Huoding’s DVD of this opera (amazingly, this DVD has reduced in price to 11.95 !)  , exactly the same scene, here  and Zhao Huan admittedly does not give it anything close to the same level of intensity. But let’s be honest, when I attempted to this myself in front of the bathroom mirror this morning, I didn’t look half as good doing it as Zhao Huan.

And I have no idea how I am going to unwrap those towels from the bathroom light fixture.



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