Liu Wei 刘薇

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


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
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


My peer-to-peer downloads often take a couple of weeks to finish and often when I add a link to my program, the Chinese characters in the file name becomes garbled because somewhere along the line something was not encoded in UTF-8. Weeks later, when the file is finally completely downloaded, I try to figure out what show I managed to get based only on a date and file size. Usually, Fern’s listing of current videos here resolves the problem.

In the rare cases when something isn’t listed, I check with Fern directly in case I have something she might not have yet. It’s happened before in the past, it might even happen again!  😉

For this particular show, Fern returned me a complete cast list along with the file title and I was a bit shamed not to have noticed a couple of obvious performers as I scanned through the video. So let’s call this post a collaboration between Fern and I, adding she deserves most  of the credit for this one!

This show was presented on 2006-10-02 at the Chang’an theater in Beijing. As Fern describes it, It’s a dan role “this school-that school highlights” performance. So, lots of ladies in this 3 hour show with a couple of favourite performers thrown in : Lü Yang, Li Jie and Wang Rongrong.

The show program:


Su San Sent Out Under Guard with Liu Wei

Liu Wei

Su San Sent Under Escort has already been discussed briefly here. It is based on part of a larger opera called 《玉堂春》Yu Tangchun (Story of Su San).  You can follow what happens to Su San next after this segment here.

This segment is 20 minutes long.

Liu Wei starts off well and is greeted warmly by the audience. She has a bit of a “Barbie doll” voice in her dialogues, more huādàn than qīngyī in delivery to my perception. But don’t trust what I say, it might be a particularity of the Huang school delivery. Fern has thoroughly upstaged all Chinese opera web sites with a terrific page on her blog listing different schools with sound  clips here. Unfortunately no clip for the Huang school yet, so hard for me to tell at this point.

I liked the orchestration and delivery in the aria beginning at 9:31, very pleasing arrangement and execution. Highlight is 12:31, deservedly well applauded.


Jin Yunu · Bridal Room with Tang Hexiang and Liu Mingzhe

Tang Hexiang

I’m not familiar with this opera or the performers. It looks like the bridegroom has some explaining to do to his lovely bride. Did he oversleep on his wedding day? I wouldn’t have in his place, Tang Hexiang promises a lot of blissful marital aggravation! Her singing at 33:34 is spectacular, and so is 37:50 to 38:00. She even has a Guo Wei profile going for her:

Tang Hexiang

She’s a hot number, all right. Xun school, and a young performer from the 4th 2004 to 2008 class according to Fern’s Who’s Who. So she wasn’t even a graduate when she performed this. If you want to see her perform this bit again, try the peer to peer link Fern mentions here.

Fern added, “As I was checking this out, I discovered a typo in the opera Jin Yunu cast, although Zhang Wei is credited, the performer was obviously Liu Mingzhe, so I double checked on the net and made the change.”


The Unicorn Purse · Spring and Autumn Pavilion with Lü Yang and Zhang Chanyu

Lü Yang

Faithful to the original play, a man plays the vivacious handmaiden in this excerpt.

The Unicorn Purse is an opera I’ve seen so often now, it has sort of become like a Hungarian cucumber salad to me, a dish which depending on where you are eating can be served hot or cold, with or without paprika, sweet or salty, and (most importantly) with or without sour cream. It’s never served the same, but it’s always the same. (In my opinion, cold, salty, with paprika and just a bit of sour cream is best I think.)

Yet no matter how blasé one might get after seeing this play too much, it’s undeniable that Lü Yang is in great voice here, dishing out unicorns with power and conviction. And no sour cream whatsoever.

Tale of the White Snake · Imprisoning Bai Suzhen with Chang Qiuyue, Liu Mingzhe, and Suo Mingfang

White Snake

Had not seen embroidery like this on the white snake before (?)


Tale of the White Snake · Broken Bridge with Wang Yan, Zhang Wei, and Yan Hongyu

Wang Yan

I liked this snake better, it has the scratchier accompanists and a more dramatic lead singer with a bigger voice.


The Drunken Concubine with Li Jie

Li Jie

Li Jie brings a lot of charisma and fine singing to this well-known Mei school play.

Every slow movement counts here and is intriguing to watch. At 2:06:00 she is superb.

Poco agrees with me, this segment is the best reason to download this video! Fern, is there a longer video of Li Jie in this role?

All in all, very very nice!

Top Scholar as Matchmaker with Wang Rongrong, Tan Xiaozeng, Zhu Qiang, Bao Fei.

Wang Rongrong

This final segment is double the length of the others. Wang Rongrong is the star of the show tonight, and her fan club is here.

I checked my files, I have another brief video of Wang Rongrong singing an aria from this opera, but not a full-length performance. It might be worth tracking down.

Here, Wang Rongrong demonstrates simply superb control, 2:15:02 is a good case in point. She will hit these high points at least half a dozen more times during this 45 minute performance.

Wang Rongrong is a classic Beijing Opera performer: she does not overdo her roles, she is a total team player who scores goal after goal.

Wang Rongrong out of make-up looks nothing like she does in make-up. Also, you have to be pretty observant to spot the differences in costume between Li Jie and Wang Rongrong on this video.

Many audience members rush to the exits instead of applauding, which is a bit of a sad final note for an otherwise splendid show.

The original file name was 京剧-折子戏-20061002北京-旦角流派专场.mkv, the length of the show is just under 3 hours, file size is 823.4 MB. Video size is a bit smallish, but it can be stretched a bit to make it bigger and the sound is excellent.

Click here to download the video

And remember, don’t drink like a concubine and drive.