Re-posted


(Updated 2013-12-31 to fix broken video link)

Wang Yan

Great thanks to Fern who helped me sort this one out. Fern has her own blog on Chinese Opera which is absolutely splendid, please check it out as well.

This production stars Yang Shaopeng, Wang Rongrong and Meng Guanglu. It is a full-length two hour opera filmed in front of a very enthusiastic crowd in Beijing. Picture and sound quality are superb. Wang Ronrong is in great voice, and Meng Guanglu is even more so! Splendid cast, splendid costumes, the sound mix between instruments and vocals seems better than usual.

Fern found this reference with opera synoses. Here is today’s story, actually three separate stories rolled up into one opera.

For the Safefy of the State (Da Bao Guo) - The crown prince is too young to attend to State affairs when Ming emperor Muzong dies. The dowager Li Yanfei’s father plans to usurp the throne. A high-ranking official Xu Yanzhao and defense minister Yang Bo go to the court to convince the dowager of her father’s conspiracy. The two loyal officials argue with the dowager in court.

Paying Homage at the Royal Mausoleum (Tan Huangling)Ming Emperor Muzong dies in 1573 when his son is too young to hold court, so the Empress Dowager’s father attempts to usurp the throne. Duke Xu Yanzhao, who is loyal to the young emperor, tries to persuade the Empress Dowager not to give up the throne to her father, but she rebuffs him. Xu pays homage at Emperor Muzong’s mausoleum and weeps there. Defense Minister Yang Po finds the duke there and they decide to approach the Empress Dowager a second time in an attempt to save the young emperor.

Entering the Palace for the Second Time (Er Jin Gong) - Li Liang in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who has usurped the throne after the emperor’s death, orders the palace be blockaded so that the empress dowager is completely cut off from the outside world. By now, the empress dowager has discovered Li Liang’s treachery. She regrets that she has ignored the warnings from two faithful officials, and can do nothing but weep in the palace. The two, Xu Yanzhao and Yang Po, however, manage to enter the palace to persuade the empress dowager to take action. She is moved and realizes that Xu and Yang are loyal to her son, the emperor-to-be. So she entrusts her son to the two officials so that they can help restore the young emperor to the throne.

Da Bao Guo first, Tan Huang Ling starts at 1:03:19 and Er Jin Gong at 1:20:35.

The empress dowager (always dressed in yellow, of course) is Li Yanfei (李艳妃), played by Wang Yan (王艳) and Wang Rongrong (王蓉蓉).
Official Xu Yanzhao (徐彦昭) is played by Wei Jijun (魏积军) and Meng Guanglu (孟广禄).
Defence minister Yang Bo (杨波) is played by Yang Shaopeng (杨少彭), Zhang Kai (张凯) and Ni Maocai (倪茂才).
The antagonist is Li Liang (李良), played by Li Yang (李扬).

The video is an .MKV file viewable with VLC. File size is about 840 MB.

Click here to download the video.

Guanglu Meng

Enjoy!

( Updated 2013-09-21 added missing links)

Peony Pavilion

Last post, we had a comprehensive introduction to Kunqu Opera through the 10 part CCTV documentary video series. Today we present a lavish production of the Kunqu Opera classic, “The Peony Pavilion”. I’ve mentioned before that I do not add an “Among our top picks” category to as post lightly. My thinking is that this category should be the starting point of discovery on this web site for someone unfamiliar with Chinese Opera. It’s the “Just show me the incredibly good stuff” category. Well, here’s one that absolutely belongs among the very best.

(from wikipedia) “The Peony Pavilion (Chinese: 牡丹亭; pinyin: mǔdāntíng) is a play written by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) in the Ming Dynasty, and first performed in 1598. It is by far the most popular play of the Ming Dynasty, (1368-1644), China’s artistic golden age, and is the primary showcase of the guimendan (闺门旦/閨門旦) role type (young, unmarried girl).” The Peony Pavilion is considered a literary masterpiece in China, in which the main theme is love, or more precisely, a love so perfect it overrides even time and death.

As explained in the documentary from last post, this was originally conceived as a 20 hour opera and written in a musical notation that did not include rhythm and tempo information. Musical instruments used at the time have changed, disappeared or evolved a great deal since the opera was conceived much like the harpsichord was replaced by the piano in western opera. Further, the original play was revised even in the author’s lifetime to adhere more strictly to the definitions then of the structural rules that a Kunqu opera should follow. All modern presentations of this play are to a large extent adaptations which are viewed as more or less “traditional”.

There have been several productions of this opera in the past decade, this is the “2007 Young Lovers’ Edition” which toured worldwide. (from wikipedia again) Bai Xianyong’s adaptation of The Peony Pavilion that premiered in 2004 helped rejuvenate the tradition. Bai, a Chinese scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his colleagues – scholars and performers, some brought back from retirement – spent five months editing Tang’s script. Working out of the Jiangsu Suzhou Kunqu Theater, the group condensed and adapted the original fifty-five scenes to twenty-seven scenes, and twenty hours of performance time to nine. Bai, who had chosen The Peony Pavilion because of its universal message of love, hoped that his rendition would attract youth to Kunqu. In fact, in its tour of China’s top universities, the show was marketed as the Youth Edition of Peony Pavilion. (The production also toured in Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, seven cities in mainland China, and the Zellerbach Theater in Berkeley, California.) According to Bai, the goal of this youth-oriented production was to “give new life to the art form, cultivate a new generation of Kunqu aficionados, and offer respect to playwright Tang and all the master artists that came before.” His production of The Peony Pavilion was his way of doing so.” The UCLA still have a website for this production dating back a few years here.

This version of the play is therefore quite long — 9 hours, or three parts each roughly 3 hours in length and performed over three days. And contrary to “epic” productions we have seen in the past from China such as “Hongzongliema”, there is no cast rotation — the same actors play in all three parts.

Peony Pavilion

Lead performers:
Du Liniang 杜丽娘 by Shen Fengying 沈丰英
Liu Mengmei 柳梦梅 by Yu Jiulin 俞玖林

“Shen Fengying is an outstanding young artist of the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu. She was trained in the guimendan (young unmarried lady) roles and coached by the famous Kunqu artists. Zhang Jiqing and Liu Jiyan. She won the Performance Award at the first Kunqu Arts Festival in China, and the Silver Award at the Accreditation Showcase for Young to Middle-aged Performers in Professional Companies in Suzhou. Yu Jiulin was trained in the jinsheng (young scholar) roles at the Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of Jiangsu Province. A talented, young artist, he was coached by the famous Kunqu artists. Wang Shiyu and Shi Xiaomei. He won the Performance Award at the first Kunqu Arts Festival in China, and the Gold Award at the Accreditation Showcase for Young to Middle-aged Performers in Professional Companies in Suzhou.” (ref here)

At the end of part 3, complete credits are provided in both Chinese and English for the production cast, all the performers, as well as (most rare in Chinese Opera) all the musicians.

The UCLA have a couple of PDFs that translate passages of this play into English. They include:

Excerpts from famous scenes (mirror)

Book 1 Script, part 1 (mirror)

Book 1 Script, part 2 (mirror)

A complete translation of the Peony Pavilion by Cyril Birch can be purchased on Amazon. The original Chinese version is available for your ebook reader for free here.

The story in brief:

Du Liniang, a sheltered, lonely girl of sixteen, dreams of meeting an imaginary, handsome young scholar near the Peony Pavilion. Over time, she dreams repeatedly of their imaginary romantic encounters. Eventually, saddened by her unrealised dreams, she wastes away. Before she dies, she paints a self-portrait and hides it in the garden. Three years later, the scholar of the girl’s dreams arrives at the Peony Pavilion in the flesh, his name is Liu Mengmei. He discovers the hidden panting, and falls in love with the girl in the portrait so completely that she springs back into life and they are united at last.

As indicated by wiki again, “This is only a broad outline of the plot of an opera which typically runs for 20 hours. The performance tradition has focused on the love story between Du Liniang (杜丽娘/杜麗娘) and Liu Mengmei (柳梦梅/柳夢梅), but its original text also contains sub-plots pertaining to the falling Song Dynasty’s defence against the aggression of the Jin Dynasty.

The widened plot is therefore:

It is the last days of the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1269). On a fine Spring day, a maid persuades Du Liniang, the sixteen year old daughter of an important official, Du Bao, to take a walk in the garden, where she falls asleep. In Du Liniang’s dream she encounters a young scholar, identified later in the play as Liu Mengmei, whom in real life she has never met. Liu’s bold advances starts off a flaming romance between the two and it flourishes rapidly. Du Liniang’s dream is interrupted by a flower petal falling on her, according to her soliloquy recounting the incident in a later act: (Reflection on the lost dream). Du Liniang, however, becomes preoccupied with her dream affair and her love sickness quickly consumes her. Unable to recover from her fixation, Du Liniang wastes away and dies. A demon, the president of the underworld, adjudicates that a marriage between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei is predestined and Du Liniang must return to the earthly world. Du Liniang appears to Liu Mengmei in his dreams. He now inhabits the same garden where Du Liniang had her fatal dream. Once recognising that Du Bao’s deceased daughter is the lady who appears in his dreams, Liu agrees to exhume her upon her request and Du Liniang is brought back to life. Liu visits Du Bao and informs him of his daughter’s resurrection. However, Liu is imprisoned for being a grave robber and an impostor. The ending of the play follows the formula of many Chinese comedies. Liu Mengmei narrowly escapes death by torture thanks to the arrival of the results of the imperial examination in which Liu has topped the list. The emperor pardons all.”

The added grave robbing and underworld demons elements now in mind, the story of this version of the Peony Pavilion is, according to the UCLA web site:

“Part I: The Dream of Love
Du Liniang, a sheltered, lonely girl of sixteen, dreams of a handsome young scholar. Saddened that he was only a dream, she pines away. Before she dies, she paints a self-portrait and hides it in the garden. Her mother buries her under a plum tree, and a shrine is erected to her memory. Most of the singing and action in Part I is done by the female lead, in melismatic, haunting melodies.
 
Part II: Romance and Resurrection
Liu Mengmei, an impoverished scholar, dreams of a beautiful young woman under a plum tree who prophesies that only she will bring him happiness. Meanwhile,  Du Liniang‘s parents murn and the family mansion becomes derelict. The family’s gardener takes pity on the destitute Liu Mengmei and lets him stay in the secret pavilion. There, he finds Du Liniang’s portrait, and falls in love with the image. Liniang’s ghost appears. Convinced of Mengmei’s love, she reveals that she is a ghost, but that she can be revived. Braving his own fears, Mengmei decides to reopen her grave. Helped by Stone Sister, a Daoist abbess, Liu digs up the grave and Du Liniang returns to life.
 
Part III: Reunion and Triumph
The lively resolution to the story. Mengmei succeeds as a scholar, but not before being punished on suspicion of grave robbing. Liniang is reunited with her parents, but not before her stern father admits that love can conquer death. This final section contains some of the liveliest and most humorous episodes in all of Kunqu.”

Aesthetically, many theatrical conventions found in Beijing Opera today are the same here, such as costumes, props and pantomimes. This production is both traditionally sparse in its sets, but also resolutely modern in its lighting — an absolute treat, in my opinion. Acting is superlative and movement, especially, is divine.  To tell the truth, the physical acting coupled with the marvellous lighting is what makes this production really leap out at you.

The difference between this Kunqu Opera and modern Beijing opera lies mostly in the instrumentation and slower pace of the music. Gongs and percussion are less prominent and intrusive than in regular Beijing Opera. The information for these is simply missing from the original musical scores, so there is less of it, perhaps. Or it was decided that this is a sticking point for western audiences unused to them. Or both. Western strings are used, musicians playing a violin and cello are credited, but you won’t distinguish those instruments from the rest, they are used (I think) to chorus and sweeten the Chinese string instruments, rather than compete with them.

Western audiences unfamiliar with Chinese opera will enjoy the singing from this young cast, which is not at all high pitched as in Mei school Beijing Opera. The intended goal is to be as pleasant as (super)humanly possible here, not  to demonstrate vocal virtuosity, although it is said the original score by Tang Xianzu was decried for being very difficult to sing. Certainly that is not apparent here: the performers do not strain visibly to hit a high note. All is fluid.

In conclusion, only the very best box of Belgian chocolates comes anywhere close to being this good.

Click here to download Part 1 of the video (697 MB, .mkv format)

Click here to download Part 2 of the video (697 MB, .mkv format)

Click here to download Part 3 of the video (698 MB, .mkv format)

Click here the “making of” documentary video in Chinese (348 MB, .mkv format)

A video interview in Chinese by the UCLA with the author of this adaptation, Bai Xianyong, can be found here

 

A final technical note:

The video is subtitled in Chinese, but you might need to adjust your settings in VLC to see the subtitles correctly.

In menu Tools > Preferences > Subtitles and OSD > change the “Default encoding” to “Universal, Chinese” and select a Unicode font which includes Chinese characters. On my system, I used the following settings (click to enlarge):

VLC subtitles settings

Your font settings might need to be slightly different than mine, the list of available fonts will vary from operating system to operating system, but you get the idea.

Enjoy!

(originally published on: Jun 20, 2011)(Updated 2013-09-21 to fix broken video and MP3 links)

Li Haiyan

More from a singer I’m really getting to like a lot, Li Haiyan. We saw her a while back in the “Flowers Fragrant” post. Fern has another nice video of her here.

First, a 5 minute video clip from the opera “Ying Tai Kang Hun” or “Yingtai against marriage” or “Zhu Yingtai Resists Marriage” (英台抗婚).

A DVD of this particular performance can be purchased here. This production has nice close-ups and good sound, but is a typically low-budget production with spectators chatting in the background… Still, I was very happy to receive it on the very day the letter carriers at Canada Post walked out on strike. Whew!

I’m a sucker for drama, and this is as good as it gets. Li Haiyan plays a character who has been delivered news not to her liking at all! No prince charming for her this lifetime.

The story, from the Fern Encyclopedia:

Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo have been classmates in Phoenix Hill for three years and have grown to be very close. At their parting, Yingtai invents the existence of a sister and tells Shanbo to come and propose within a hundred days.

When Yingtai gets home, she is unaware that her father has betrothed her to the son of the Ma family. One day when she sees the betrothal gifts, she mistakes them to be Shanbo’s and is happy and shy. She is shocked and indignant when she knows the truth, and objects to the arranged marriage. Father and daughter fall out.

After seeing Yingtai and having told the irreversible situation, Shanbo dies of a broken heart. A tearful Yingtai mourns Shanbo in front of his grave.

Superb vocal control, solid acting. And what a great voice! There is a lot of feeling here. The audience roars approval, the orchestra sweeps beautifully in the background. Ah!

Download the video here. The file format is mp4, and can be viewed using VLC. File size is 143 MB.

The video ends before curtain call, surely Madame Haiyan received a bouquet for this performance?

Before I leave you with a couple of nice photos of Li Haiyan, here is an MP3 of the first track off her quite hard to find CD, “Peking Opera Stars – Li Haiyan“. I received my CD (not from my favorite online store I hasten to add) with the jewel case crushed into tiny pieces… You’re lucky to hear this!

Download the MP3 here.

Li Haiyan in Cai Wenji

Li Haiyan

Li Haiyan

If you’re like me, you will be left wanting to hear more from Li Haiyan.

Enjoy!

(update 2011-06-25) Fern spotted Li Haiyan singing oh-so-briefly at around 3 minutes into a video clip at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA7UzcGTdeU

She was looking sharp!

Li Haiyan

Jingju book

Hello,

I posted the videos below a year ago. Today, Fern found these illustrations  from the books mentioned in the videos at http://bbs.enet.com.cn/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=99563&extra=page%3D1&page=1

We think they have been reproduced in a book called 升平署戏曲人物画册.

I’ve tried my best to adjust the colors from the predominant yellow, and to resize them to fit here.

You can download the original unretouched images in higher resolution here.

There are few things in life as pure and beautiful Beijing Opera. These are simply magnificent.

(Update)

The World Digital Library Online also has these illustrations in high definition online under the title “Office of Great Peace Album of Opera Faces“and you can download a very nice PDF there (also mirrored here).

(The dates seems wrong if you compare those mentioned in the video ?)

 The Emperors court guide book

The book pictured above is several hundred years old.

Its story in three parts.

Download Part One

Download Part Two

Download Part Three

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jingju book

Jin Xiquan

This is the first time I cross-post a video pointing to another web site, and one of the rare times I add the “Among Our Top Picks” category. That category should never be used lightly, only for something absolutely top-notch, fascinating, and yes, even superhuman.

If you are not very familiar with Beijing Opera, then I am pretty sure you have not seen a performance like this before.

Actor Jin Xiquan is one of Fern’s favorites (well, let’s say he’s in her top three), and this week she posted this stunning video of him singing with a hybrid symphonic and Beijing orchestra.

Drop everything you are doing and go watch it, it’s just amazing.

And don’t forget to enjoy!

 

Xiong Mingxia

Hello!

I took a very rare scheduled day off from work to rest and relax today.

And I started writing this post. Before I was done, I accidentally posted it without noticing, walked off and took a nap. When I woke up, Fern had already emailed me about it with explanations and links. So, not just a little bit amazed, I’ve decided to repost this with Fern’s input, seeing as it wasn’t done in the first place.

This very recent 2011-06-11 production of 《铁面无私清官谱》Tiemian Wusi Qingguan Pu (List of Incorrupt Officials) stars Tang Yuancai (唐元才) in the well-know and recurring role of Judge Bao, along with the bubbly and expressive actress Xiong Mingxia (熊明霞) as the emperor’s hot calendar girl Pang Fei. It was performed by the Shanghai Jingju Troupe at the Tianchan Yifu Theater.

I posted a concert video a couple of weeks ago with a superb Tang Yuancai here. Fern has several really nice posts relating to Xiong Mingxia here, and some of those posts are even about opera! (*kidding*)

Don't mess with Judge Bao

According to this reference, around the year 150, many educated men in China who applied themselves increasingly to independent learning, debates and new writing genres, also became widely known for their reformist stances and overtly political views. Such men were often labelled by their contemporaries as “pure officials” (qingguan), that is, officials usually associated with court ritual, education, and administration, and free of eunuch and empress-family links. The real-life Judge Bao came along in fact about 900 years later, but “due to his fame and the strength of his reputation, Bao’s name became synonymous with the idealised “honest and upright official” (qingguan 清官), and quickly became a popular subject of early vernacular drama and literature.” (ref) In many stories Bao is accompanied by his personal secretary, the righteous and incorruptible Gongsun Ce (公孙策), among others.

Here are Fern’s notes:

“The storyline of《清官册》Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)  I found  did not match the story we see in this video. It became clearer only when I found this same play on the site of Tianchan Yifu Theater (http://www.tianchan.com/ticket/487) with the same date, and from the description I figured out the following :

The story is titled 《铁面无私清官谱》 (which translates to “List of Honest and Incorruptible Officials” as well).

The story is set during the Northern Song dynasty, and there was a big drought in Chenzhou county. On imperial order, the emperor’s maternal uncle, Pang Yu, is sent to Chengzhou to distribute grain to the people. But he and the local official conspire to embezzle the provisions.

Having no other choice, many commoners arrive to Kaifeng, the capital at that time, and complain about the injustice. The emperor orders judge Bao Zheng to investigate and handle the case.

Imperial tutor Pang Ji and his daughter, imperial concubine Pang Fei borrow the imperial chariot to obstruct Bao Zheng on the way. Bao Zheng repeatedly asks them to move away, but Pang Fei refuses to let him pass.

Judge Bao gets angry and destroys the chariot. The Emperor wants to order the execution of Bao Zheng, but Zhao Defang, Emperor Taizu’s fourth son and senator Kou Zhun ask for leniency. Taizong finally pardons Bao and gives him the imperial sword, thus permitting him to act first and report later.

Bao Zheng travels to Chengzhou. Upon his arrival, he investigates the case in detail.

With the military aid of the brave Zhan Zhao, they manage to subdue Pang Yu, though Pang Ji and his henchmen try to hinder them.

Justice is done when Judge Bao orders the execution of Pang Yu and the corrupt officials.

Also in the cast: the old woman with a diamond on her forehead, no doubt to indicate she is noble deep down inside (she is great at around 21:00)

The treacherous official Pang Ji (booo!)

Sometimes good guys don't wear white

Xiong Mingxia, sporting a double scoop hairdo, exhibits what throat singing control is all about from 45:33 on. With this actress, to me, it’s a lot about singing technique. She also has a lot of intrigue in her eyes and is fun to watch.

Xiong Mingxia

(from Wikipedia) “ In most dramatisation of his stories, Judge Bao used a set of guillotines (Chinese: 鍘刀; pinyin: zhádāo; Literal: lever-knife), given to him by the emperor, to execute criminals (…)  The one decorated with a tiger’s head (Chinese: 虎頭鍘; pinyin: hǔtóuzhá; Literal: tiger-headed lever-knife) was used on government officials.”

beheading knives found by Fern

This explains the tiger and what happens to the bad guy at the end:

Off with his head!

Judge Bao’s command at 2:27:28 to execute the criminal is pretty easy to understand!

(update 2011-09-24) Fern sent me another email with the following info:

The official title of this play in question, staged by the Shanghai Jingju Troupe is “Tiemian Wusi Qingguan Pu”. It shares some characters from Qingguan Ce, like Zhao Defang and Kou Zhun, and also translates as “List of Honest and Incorrupt Officials”, but actually the story is based on a drama titled《打銮驾》”Da Luanjia” (Crashing the Imperial Chariot), which belonged to the repertoire of Wang Zhengbing (hualian) and Fei Sanjin (xiaosheng) around 1890. In Da Luanjia, the favorite concubine tries to protect her brother (who embezzled the relief grain) by blocking Judge Bao’s way three times with the royal vehicles. This story fits our play.

My sources: http://www.tianchan.com/info/263, http://www.hudong.com/wiki/, and Peking Opera Synopses in English.

Cast for this post’s video:
Judge Bao: Tang Yuancai (唐元才)
Concubine Pang: Xiong Mingxia (熊明霞)
Kou Zhun: Qi Baoyu (齐宝玉)
Zhao Defang: Xu Jianzhong (徐建忠)
Zhan Zhao: Lan Tian (蓝天)
Mrs. Liu: Hu Xuan (胡璇)
Pang Ji: Dong Hongsong (董洪松)
Pang Yu: Yang Donghu (杨东虎)
Zhao Zhen (Emperor Renzong): Li Chun (李春)
Zhao Bin, minister of war: Yu Wei (虞伟)
Wang Yanling: Guo Yi (郭毅)
Chengzhou prefectural magistrate Zang Daodi: Luo Jiakang (罗家康)
Ren Hu and Ren Biao (the two guys sent to assassinate Bao at the relay station): Liang Guohui (梁国辉); Wang Yuhao (王钰皓)

I made a group image of characters as they are in the cast list” (below)

Qingguan cast

The video, although overall a bit compressed, is of very nice quality picture and sound and the opera is 2 1/2 hours long. File size is 795 MB and format is .mkv

Click here to download the video

Some additional photos of this performance, taken with a Konica Minolta digital camera (the label on all the JPG images), borrowed from http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_61c0e26401017hum.html and  http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_61c0e26401017huz.html

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Qingguan Ce (List of Incorrupt Officials)

Enjoy!

autographed playlist

Last week I discovered a studio CD by my favorite singer I did not know existed here.

2005 CD

I had seen the cover to this Zhang Huoding CD before, but it seemed so amateurish I thought it was a live audience recording being distributed. But no, it is a very good recording of the singer at her peak in 2005.

I posted a couple of tracks from this a while back, without knowing the origin, here and here. The CD seems to be out of print everywhere at the moment. But don’t worry, we’ll start a petition.

Later this week, I stumbled on two more nice live MP3 recordings by Madame Huoding, first an aria from the Butterfly Lovers opera, then from the Dragon and the Phoenix.

The source of the latter two was here.

Finally, to round out the week, Fern found some rare audience video recordings of Zhang Huoding.

She wrote me, “I was sorting out my folders and suddenly I got an idea, regarding a complete Da Deng Dian with Zhang Huoding. That opera is part of the Red-maned Fierce Horse (Hongzong Liema) monster play, and almost always only
a few acts are performed together at once, Wujia Po and Da Deng Dian are always inside though.

I started to search for “红鬃烈马” “张火丁” and found some valuable information:

The Mandarin Duck Grave you recently uploaded was performed in Chang’an Grand Theatre 2006/11/24. (Before that, there was a performance by Zhang Huoding’s brother).

The next day, 2006/11/25 there was a performance of Hongzong Liema, in which Zhang Huoding starred in the Wujia Po and the Da Deng Dian parts. [Fern mentions that she is looking for the the first part, Bie Yao, played by Jin Xiquan and Xiong Mingxia.]

I found only this copy so far:
http://operabeijing.com/megapoxy/videos/Dadengdian_Zhang_Huoding.flv

It’s small but not that bad. They lift up the zhanghuoding.com banner at the end like after the Mandarin Ducks.

(In) the channel of the same individual who uploaded the Mandarin Duck Grave here, there was this atypical piece there too, a full Sitting in the Palace w/ Zhang Huoding and Du Zhenjie:
http://operabeijing.com/megapoxy/videos/Zuo_Gong_Zhang_Huoding.flv

Crappy quality but it’s kind of a rarity I guess. The oh-so-famous part starts at 30:54.

The full cast for these two days’ performances is as follows:

11/24

《武文华》 张火千 蔡景超 Wu Wenhua (Zhang Huoqian, Cai Jingchao)

《鸳鸯冢》 张火丁 宋小川 李崇善 寇春华 吕昆山 金立水 唐禾香 黄涛 Mandarin Duck Grave (Zhang Huoding,
Song Xiaochuan, Li Chongshan, Kou Chunhua, Lü Kunshan, Jin Lishui)

 11/25

《红鬃烈马》 Red-maned Fierce Horse

《别窑》 金喜泉 熊明霞 Pinggui Leaves His Home (Jin Xiquan, Xiong Mingxia)

《武家坡》 张火丁 杜镇杰 Wujia Slope (Zhang Huoding, Du Zhenjie)

《银空山》 邓敏 宋小川 马翔飞 寇春华 吕昆山 黄文俊 陈真治 Silver Sky Mountain (Deng Min, Song Xiaochuan, Ma Xiangfei, Kou Chunhua, Lü Kunshan, Huang Wenjun, Chen Zhenzhi)

《大登殿》 张火丁 李崇善 赵葆秀 常秋月 The Great Enthronement (Zhang Huoding, Li Chongshan, Zhao Baoxiu, Chang Qiuyue)“.

Thank you Fern, that was a *nice* birthday present in advance!

To close this off, I like to replay a video Fern posted herself before on her own great blog here. It’s a really nice performance, and my copy of the video is bigger, has better sound, and comes from CCTV11 rather than CCTV4, so from a different source. It also identifies a time frame, 2006, which was very good Huoding vintage from what we’ve seen here.

Zhang Huoding as the White Snake

Click here to download the video (28 MB in size, .rmvb format)

Enjoy!

Yangmen

Hello,

I’ve replaced the spliced versions of the HD “Female Warriors of the Yang Family” I had posted earlier with the bigger original files. They’re very large files, but they’re also Among Our Top Picks.

Fern just talked about a symphonic version of this opera, which  had its debut recently (a video of that is on my Want List).

Don’t miss it!

The new files are here.

(originally published on: Jul 24, 2011)(Updated 2013-04-23 to fix broken links)

Li Jie

Hello,

Fern of megapoxy.net sent me the links to the story and a very nice video of Li Jie singing from the opera “Lian Jinfeng” (谦锦枫), as well as some biographical background on this actress. Very sweet, Fern, thank you!

Li Jie (李洁) is a “first-class” Mei school actress born in 1972. Starting in 1981, she was taught by famous Mei school artist Chen Zhengwei (陈正薇) at the Jiangsu Theater Academy. After her graduation in 1988, she joined the Jiansu Beijing Opera Theater.

In 1998, the Central Propaganda Department and Ministry of Culture picked her to be sent to The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts for postgraduate studies. There she had veteran teachers like Yang Qiuling 杨秋玲, Li Jinhong 李金鸿, and from 2006 she became the student of noted Beijing opera actress Du Jinfang 杜近芳. Li Jie got Plum Blossom Award in 2001 (along with Li Hongtu, Li Peihong, Dong Yuanyuan, and Geng Qiaoyun).

Fishermen

The story (found here):

At the time of the Empress Wu Tang dynasty, Tang Ao who has failed the civil examination (allowing him to enter the service of the imperial court), meets Lin Zhiyang and Duo Jiugong and they leave for the “The Kingdom of Noblemen”. At the same time, the filial daughter named Lian Jinfeng, a very good swimmer, is looking for sea cucumber in the sea as a remedy for her mother’s illness.

One day, she is trapped with mistake by a couple of fishermen, among them Wu from Qingqiu state, and attached to the head of boat in order to sell her. As soon as he sees this, Tang Ao paid for her ransoms and she went to sea again to get sea cucumbers. She in return finds the Qidu pearl to present him.

This video is a half hour live performance. The first half consists of Li Jie singing and dancing solo, followed by some light acrobatics by clowns representing pearl fishermen. It wraps up with a sword dance. All in all, a very nice production featuring pleasing-looking colors and sets as well as interesting camera work. “The Big Blue” Beijing opera style.

Click here to download the video. File format is .MP4 and can be viewed in VLC. File size is 110 MB.

The video was downloaded and re-assembled from separate sections using Vidown from this link.

Li Jie

(originally published on: Jun 26, 2011)(Updated 2013-04-23 to fix broken links)

Wang RongrongHello again,

Final day of a long rainy weekend of file backups.

I was feeling a little guilty about saying that Wang Rongrong was a bit shrill in the previous post (update note: heresy!), so here she is in top vocal shape in a complete opera. The original title of “Do not sacrifice River Palace” is 别宫祭江 and I have an additional reference as “Do Gong Ji Jiang“. (added 2011-06-27) Fern suggested instead the title “Leaving the palace to offer sacrifice at the river” which makes a lot more sense.

Fern, who is indeed a learned scholar, researched and forwarded the following storyline for this opera:

Sun Shangxiang’s Sacrifice (Bie Gong Ji Jiang) – Sun Shangxiang, wife of King Liu Bei of Shu who ruled during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 AD), is forbidden to return to her husband by her brother, who is the king of Wu. She decides to take her own life when she hears the news that her husband has died in a fierce battle between the two kingdoms. She comes to the riverbank of the Yangtze and prays to her dead husband before jumping into the water.

Wang Rongrong is in excellent voice here, crystal clear with a very pleasant tone, clearly displaying why she is a “first class” Beijing Opera star. At 24:14 she holds a note for a full 10 seconds. Bravo!!! I shall never doubt you again!

Additional players are credited as Zhao Baoxiu (赵葆秀), Han Juming, Liu Mingzhe (刘明哲), and Song Haoyu (宋昊宇).

Trouble!

Click here to download the video. The file format is MP4 with great sound and picture and can be viewed with VLC. File size is 613 MB.

Lots of nice costumes in this one. Enjoy!

Next Page »