Li Hongtu 李宏图


Guo Wei

(above: Guo Wei)

Hello,

Just a quickie, because it was so hard to download AND upload!

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
Description: 
Four classic Cheng school plays were staged on the 11th, and three the next day.
Cast:
11 October: 
《武昭关》 Wu Zhao Guan (The Zhao Pass – military version) – 孙明玉 Sun Mingyu
《锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – 刘蓓 Liu Bei, 鲁彤 Lu Tong
《三娘教子》Sanniang Jiao Zi (The Third Wife Teaches the Son) – 张茜 Zhang Qian, 穆雨 Mu Yu and 王兆男 Wang Zhaonan
《玉堂春》Yu Tangchun – 郭玮 Guo Wei, 李宏图 Li Hongtu, 朱强 Zhu Qiang, 黄柏雪 Huang Baixue, 倪盛春 Ni Shengchun; special guest star: jinghu master 燕守平 Yan Shouping

Click here for Part One of the video (577 MB)

Click here for Part Two of the video (457 MB)

Hello Chinese Opera fans,

Finally I decided to finish the fourth part of my trip report. The last few months were so hectic for me that I won’t even try to elaborate on that, and I won’t say sorry repeatedly for being so slow, it makes no sense.

Yesterday I found this article from last month in Beijing Daily, it’s about the Sicily performances – there’s a somewhat funny segment in the article I would like to translate (and here I do say sorry for my Chinhunglish):

After the opening performance in Catania, The Zhao Orphan, it’s was already very early in the morning, around 1 o’clock, when a girl from Hungary, Nora, rushed backstage, chasing after her idols, Li Hongtu and Zhu Qiang for a group photo.
Previously this year in July, Red Cliff was staged in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic, after seeing Red Cliff in Hungary, Nora immediately became a Li Hongtu and Zhu Qiang fan, and after hearing that they would later perform in Sicily, she hurriedly bought a plane ticket because she wanted to see all four performances.
As expected, the next day before Lü Bu and Diaochan, she arrived to the theater very early. The Head of the Beijing Jingju Theater, Li Enjie, has already sent an invitation to Nora, asking her to come to Beijing to see jingju.

2012-11-01

This is the evening edition, it has the same text:

Well, I got an invitation (but no invitation letter), we will see it will work out or not.

True that, I arrived to the theater early each day, except the last one. I thought why should I wait there, I won’t meet anyone, so I arrived just in time for the performance, and after curtain call I left immediately. Sure enough that next day I got a message from Zhu Qiang: “I was waiting for you before the performance, but couldn’t see you coming.” That much about my brilliant intuitions. I really wanted to say good-bye, especially that this is one of the few Chinese phrases I can pronounce properly.

Program of the last night was a real classic tale: Legend of the White Snake. I don’t think that any recurring visitor here will ask: “What’s that all about?” 

Considering the set of performers available in Sicily, easy to guess that Bai Suzhen (White Snake) was played by Zhang Huifang, Xu Xian by Li Hongtu, Xiao Qing (Green Snake) by Li Hongyan, and Fahai (Boo!) by Huang Yanzhong.
Sadly too much time has passed since the performance, but I remember that the theater was full. Unexpectedly the play ended after the Broken Bridge scene, but it was long enough either way.


Shy Bai, shy Xu

DSC01370
What’s more romantic than sharing an umbrella?

DSC01372
Huang Baixue as the boatman – bravo!

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I think this photo is pretty cute.

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“Your wife is a snake demon, deal with it.”

During the performance, Li Hongtu made the audience giggle several times, his Xu Xian was naive and gullible. Sicily spectators considered his sniffing during the Broken Bridge scene a highlight, and laughed loudly.


The White Snake moves heaven and earth to get the magical lingzhi mushroom, in order to revive her beloved husband.

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Even Crane Boy and Deer Boy (played by the super-handsome Zhou Enxu and Zhang Qingsong) can’t prevent White Snake from snatching the mushroom.

After Stealing the Magical Mushroom, there was an intermission. Suddenly I remembered the “second floor middle” hint, and using the zoom on my camera, luckily discovered Ye Shaolan up there. Certainly took a few photos right there, the one below is really cute, with Mr. Ye on the right (on the left in the background is Li Enjie, the other gentleman I don’t recognize):

A few minutes later he left, and I thought if this is a washroom break, the right moment has arrived. I proceeded to the corridor, and took my tactical position. And guess what, he really showed up! He was smiling at me when I approached him, and was a bit surprised when I handed him a pen and paper. I got the autograph I was longing for, and even took a photo, Bertrand already posted that.
No-one was there to take a joint photo, but I didn’t really mind, actually I didn’t want to ruin the photo with my unpolished grin. Then he said good bye, and my right angled bowing made him smile again. I can’t help, it was just natural instinct.

The performance continued with a fight again: Green Snake and White Snake flooded Fahai’s temple. The audience was fascinated by the spectacular spear-kicking act, as far as I noticed, no spears were dropped, though there was a tight catch.


The little monk in the background holds the copper bowl that later serves as snake catcher. Again, Boo! at Fahai. I don’t like this character, but I already said that.


I think the charming bear is Wang Xueqing.

The snake sisters flood the temple, Xu Xian has to run for his life. The upset Green Snake chases him to the Broken Bridge, but the White Snake, although badly hurt, is still in love with him, so she convinces her sister to spare Xu’s life.

Do you want to see all this? Then click the links below, I recorded this scene – but beware, it’s a totally amateur video with a huge Sicilian fan and spectators’ heads in the view. It’s better interesting than splendid, some kind of souvenir from Fern.

Broken Bridge Part 1
Broken Bridge Part 2


Happy end! Reunion at Broken Bridge! Never mind the later happenings.

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I like this picture: you can see the musicians as well.

As I mentioned before, after the performance I left immediately, and hurried back to my little room. I’m sorry to say, but I can’t remember what happened later, next day I went sightseeing, meanwhile the troupe arrived to Cosenza and met a very cultured audience.

Next day, very early in the morning I successfully made my way to the airport, and had a smooth flight home – that’s all folks!

I still couldn’t find a good closing catchphrase… 

…..

PS. OK, I found another evening edition from October:

Li Hongtu: In these years I visited many places around the world, I came across many of these kind of girls like Nora from Hungary. This year in July we staged Red Cliff in Germany, [...] a German spectator found me backstage, incessantly saying: “I was moved by your voice.”

First column title says: “Foreigner fangirl chasing (the troupe to) Italy”…

Now I really want to know actually what kind of girl I am…

It’s disappointing how quickly memories fade away… Leaning on my notes, messages and e-mails I will try to reconstruct the events of the next few days of my trip.

On the 19th, I woke up in the morning with a completely ruined hairstyle and droopy eyes. I think I spent most of the day in my air conditioned room chatting online and browsing the net.

Some time during the afternoon, I got a phone call from Yu Ning, co-coordinator of Wu Promotion’s  European tour management. Later, one hour before the evening performance, we met in the theater hall. She’s an elegant, beautiful young girl who speaks excellent English. She asked me whether I would prefer the German program booklet. When I replied it wouldn’t really make any difference, she was surprised: “But you are from Vienna, aren’t you?” (Later I checked my appearance in the mirror and concluded that I indeed look a bit German.)

Yu Ning tried to comfort me that the TV interview I was to give would be just a short shot with a couple of standard questions. Meanwhile, Zhu Jia, vice-director of BJT’s marketing department stepped up to us, and started to ask me questions in Chinese, supposing that if he’s tried to communicate with me as if I were a toddler, I would understand him. In his own way, he’s a funny guy. Here you can see his most memorable adventure in Munich.

Surprisingly, everyone was interested in the same question: who is my favorite actor from the troupe, who am I chasing after (for an autograph)? I must have improved Zhu Qiang’s popularity index, however I started to feel more than a bit like a fangirl.

BTV’s reporter, Ma Ou, arrived with a sheet of paper and her cameraman. They positioned me with the stage in the background, blinded me with the camera light and with Yu Ning’s help, Mrs. Ma asked me a few really predictable questions, like when did I first encounter Beijing Opera, what do I like the most about it, where do I come from, among the four plays staged in Catania which one did I like the best (note that this was shot before the second performance), and, of course, who is my favorite actor from the troupe?

To satisfy your curiosity: Yu Ning can be seen on the left with a shawl on her shoulders, and the lady in ankle boots on the right is Ma Ou:

In the few minutes left before the performance, business cards were swapped and using the notepad on my phone I exchanged a few “words” with Zhu Jia, who gave me a funny souvenir. I was also made a generous offer as well, but I won’t elaborate on that yet.

I think I haven’t mentioned before that Theater Bellini had no air conditioning… Spectators tried to cool themselves with Sicilian fans, but the poor performers had no chance to do the same, they were soaking in sweat.

This night’s program was another of my favourite plays:《吕布与貂蝉》Lü Bu and Diaochan, with Li Hongtu (李宏图), Wu Haoyi (吴昊颐), Chen Junjie (陈俊杰) and Han Shengcun (韩胜存) in the leading roles. Unfortunately the theater staff was terrorizing me (“No photographs!”), and I could take only a few pictures, mostly during curtain call, and even those didn’t really work out. I made a couple of sound recordings, but Li Hongtu’s frequency (vocal range) needs more serious equipment than my camera.


Pose!

The story of the opera is more or less the same as in this Wikipedia article.

Unfortunately the odd “vanishing audience phenomenon” recurred: after the intermission and  during the performance many spectators left, really few were interested enough to endure the heat and massive xiaosheng segments to the end. However, those that stayed had a great time. Sicilians were especially fond of The Small Reception scene, they were continuously giggling when Lü Bu was courting Diaochan.  In this old post of mine you can find a little clip at the end, with Ye Shaolan and Wang Yan performing this particular scene.

I already mentioned that Li Hongtu live sounds much better than in videos or on TV. I know it’s very poor wording, but he was “so Ye” this evening. At ninedragonspot.com you can read a marvelous article about The Small Reception, also the post has two videos of the most famous aria, one with Song Xiaochuan and one with Jiang Qihu.

Below you can see Wu Haoyi’s entry in the next scene after The Small Reception – Wang Yun (Han Shengcun) lures Dong Zhuo into the same trap. This time, the banquet is more luxurious, beautiful young dancer girls occupy the stage. Trivia question: can you guess the title of this scene? You won! It’s “The Great Reception”.


Dong Zhuo gets fascinated by the entertainment show presented by Diaochan and her maids.


Lü Bu took the bait and killed his despotic father for a woman who’ll desert him soon!


Huang Baixue (黄柏雪) as Li Ru (left) was hilarious in the role of Dong Zhuo’s minion.

After the curtain call, I hurried back to the safety of my room and desperately tried to resist going online and take a rest instead, but I failed. Next morning my hair and eyes were even worse than the day before…

If you are curious about the last two performances and the sudden positive twist in the quality and quantity of the audience, stay tuned!

Hello Everybody,

Sorry for being so slow. I’ve returned back from Sicily and will now try to write a decent trip report. To make things easier, I’ll proceed in a chronological order of events.

As Bertrand mentioned here, on the 16th I took a plane and arrived to Catania to see four performances staged by the Beijing Jingju Theater (officially JingJu Theater Company of Beijing), which I will refer to as BJT from now on.

This European tour was arranged by Wu Promotion, the same as for the Red Cliff tour in May. Unfortunately, one week before my trip, the venue, dates and programs were changed, I had to cancel a Palermo hotel reservation and extend the Catania one — fortunately the little apartment where I hired a room was still free for the rest of the week.

On the rather worn flyer above the correct dates are displayed, however the order of the performances was different than mentioned. Instead of “Snake”, “Zhao”, highlights, “Lü Bu”, the actual order of performances was “Zhao”, “Lü Bu”, highlights, “Snake”. Not to mention the “detailed” description of the highlights performance on the flyer was sort of slketchy, i.e. “Crossroad, Flower, Tipsy, 18″. Just for your convenience, this really meant: “At the Crossroads”, “Heavenly Maiden Showering Flowers”, “The Drunken Concubine”, “Eighteen Arhats Fight the Monkey King”.

The website above lists the tour stops as Munich, Catania and Cosenza, but don’t take any information you see on sites run by Chinese administrators for granted. The schedule changes quickly! All of a sudden, a performance was arranged in Rome on the 26th, and yesterday the troupe held another one in Amelia… On the photo below you can see Zhang Qingsong, Zhou Enxu and a Vatican bishop, definitely the oddest jingju group photo I’ve ever seen:


Photo of Ma Ou (BTV)

So back to my arrival. After running in circles for half an hour on the Catania airport, I figured out where to buy a ticket for the bus that took me to the inner city. In another half an hour, I found my hotel, actually it was a three-room apartment run by a young married couple. It was very clean, they didn’t bother me in the slightest degree, and the city, the theater, sightseeing highlights all were in the range of a 10-15 minutes walk. Ciuri Ciuri is a cute (and cheap) place to stay if you’re visiting Catania, I recommend.

Look at the ceiling of my room, pretty adorable, isn’t it?

After grabbing a city map from the counter, I threw my gear on the bed and connected to the free WiFi to find out what’s happening. The first performance was on the 18th, so I had one and a half day to explore the city and set up a schedule. Actually that week was so hectic that I didn’t care much about food, I ate whatever was in my reach.

I made several sightseeing photos, but I doubt anyone would be interested in them, here is one of my favorites though, a vintage funeral car:

On the 18th I went to the box office in the intolerable heat and waited half an hour to purchase tickets, then the clerk informed me that all performances are free. I was shocked. I don’t really support free admittance, you all know that people do not appreciate anything that’s thrown into their face for free.

In the evening I headed to theater Bellini with great expectations and without the slightest idea what play will I see. A fair amount of people were waiting in front of the theater, and it seemed everything will be OK.

In the hall you could buy souvenirs, not too attractive shawls decorated with jingju characters, porcelain USB sticks with the BJT logo, stuff like that. There was a little exhibition of costumes too, the signs read “Costume of XY” in Italian, and the name of the given subject in Chinese…

The show was hosted by Francesca Ferro, who is a local celebrity I guess, she was pretty professional, also the intro was well-written and interesting (although I don’t speak Italian). She briefly introduced Beijing Opera, the different roles, the meaning of the main face paint colors, and the invisible jinghu player performed a few typical tunes. Finally two young performers were invited to the stage, don’t ask me who they were, a palace maid and a supporting xiaosheng. First both of them said “Good Evening Everyone!” in Chinese, then they did the same in Beijing Opera style, with the fitting gestures. Naturally, the audience had a great time, and they already knew what to expect in the next few hours.

When Francesca started to explain the storyline, I finally got to know that tonight’s program is The Orphan of the Zhao Family《赵氏孤儿》, starring Li Hongtu as the Zhao orphan, Zhu Qiang as Cheng Ying, Chen Junjie as Wei Jiang, Huang Yanzhong as the evil Tu Angu, Jiang Yishan as Princess Zhuangji, Ni Shengchun as Gongsun Chujiu, Wu Haoyi as the maid Bu Feng, Huang Baixue as Jin Linggong and so on.

The sequence of acts you can read here. In case you’re unfamiliar with Zhaoshi Guer, just a few Google searches will do, this story is very well documented in English.

For my great pleasure, the dog was the beagle:

The audience got in a cheerful mood as soon as the dog appeared, however they soon had to realize this funny-looking animal will trigger a series of misfortune events.

Needless to say, during the whole performance I tried to blink as little as possible, in order not to miss a second. Both the musicians and the actors were amplified correctly, all the dong-dong-qiang wasn’t too loud, you could hear the dialogues and arias properly.

What to say? I enjoyed every moment of this play. I tried to make a few photos and videos, but each time I was warned by some theater staff: “No photo! No photo!” However, I managed to steal a recording of the aria I was waiting for, I converted it to mp4, you can download it below.

京剧《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Orphan of the Zhao Family), Aria 在白虎大堂奉了命 – Zhu Qiang (朱强)


Despite the torture, Bu Feng doesn’t confess


My single shot of Jiang Yishan except the curtain call that worked out

Sadly there was an intermission, allowing spectators to go outside and never come back. It’s out of question they didn’t understand the story and therefore they left, the whole opera was fully subtitled in Italian. My guess is that the show wasn’t advertised enough. Without those who left in between, the theater was rather a sore sight. Moreover, the story was tragic, not featuring many splendid looking female characters, I definitely enjoyed the long and sad segments performed by the plainly clothed Zhu Qiang, but I’m afraid the rest of the audience wasn’t so enchanted.


Soon they start to laugh. I like this picture.


Zhao Wu is a skilled archer: he shots two wild geese with one arrow

My efforts to hide my feelings utterly failed during the picture book scene. Cheng Ying reveals the truth to the Zhao orphan, first telling the course of events as if it were just an old narrative tale. Later on when he says: “And that man wearing black clothes… that was me.”, I simply couldn’t hold back tears. The strip below contains my four best shots of this scene.

Li Hongtu’s horizontal fainting definitely gained the appreciation of the audience, there was a noticeable uproar when he fell with a big thump. Sicilians also were especially fond of the final scene, when Cheng Ying kicks Tu Angu’s dead body multiple times.


The evildoer is dead!


Curtain call

The performance was recorded by BTV, I hope at some point I’ll manage to get a copy. At the end I bought a program booklet and a nice picture album about the BJT, with many gorgeous photos and several spelling mistakes. The letters are golden, never mind the scan below.

With all my new belongings under my arm, I proceeded to the street and waited patiently to get some autographs. This time, I didn’t forget to take a pen with me.

Just like in regular life, men remove their make-up and change clothes much faster than women. The first victim I spotted was Chen Junjie — without shoulder pads, huge platform shoes and scary face paint he’s a tiny little man. First I wasn’t sure it was him, but I recognized his green T-shirt I saw before. He gave me an autograph with a slight smile, in the imaginary bubble above his head I could read “How did this gal figure out it’s me?”

Seeing I was loitering there, the general manager of Wu Promotion, Wu Jiatong, and another gentleman got talking with me, one of them seemed to remember me from Budapest. (I was told later they are father and son but I simply cannot decide who’s the son. :/)

In a minute Zhu Qiang showed up, and although I changed my haircut and his eyesight isn’t very splendid, he recognized me from several meters away and I got a really warm welcome. Naturally everyone got his camera, meanwhile Li Hongtu also appeared and willingly lined up for the group photo, a few other people also started to shoot videos and pictures, actually everything happened very quickly.

Next day I found the picture at Weibo that Bertrand posted before, it’s Wu Jiatong’s version. You know, actually Li Hongtu is smiling, the first photo below proves it. On the second one I desperately tried to seem smaller, thus creating the rather embarrassing effect you see…

 

I was so happy with the autographs that I got lost in the city in the dark on the way back home, but finally arrived to my hotel room safely.

The next morning I received a personal message from Zhu Qiang, informing me their media would like to make a short interview with me,would I agree?

Just for the sake of operabeijing.com, I agreed. Stay tuned!

-end of part1-

li, fern, zhu

Fern wrote me today about her trip in Sicily watching Beijing Opera, here looking sharp with Li Hongtu 李宏图 and Zhu Qiang 朱强.

We confirm that our Fern has been interviewed for Chinese TV.

She has so much to talk about when she gets back it’s scary.

Buona notte bella!

Hello Chinese Opera fans,

I owe you a review. As Bertrand already announced, I had the opportunity to check out a production of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (fancy official name of the Beijing National Grand Theatre), by the performers of China National Peking Opera Company and the Peking Opera Theater of Beijing, staged in the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest. Click here for more information.

 

CNPOC had made some efforts recently to introduce the term “jingju” to the Western audience, presuming “Beijing Opera” might be misleading. I have foreseen the consequences: Westerners will desperately try to pronounce jingju properly, and each nation ends up with a completely different word.
In the case of Hungarians, the result was tyintyü.

So let’s see this tyintyü, Red Cliff. Bertrand posted a video with the full opera previously, the article features multiple program introductions that summarize neatly what the intentions of NCPA were with this production. As Bertrand noted, it’s a hybrid. Very hybrid. Some segments were 99% traditional Beijing Opera, some had Western opera taste, some left a strong Broadway smell.
I really don’t want to go into details about the heated discussion what’s going on right now at Weibo, many comments are very hardcore, many make sense, however almost none consider the feelings of foreigners, even if the speaker is not genuinely entitled to discuss the matter.

Technically speakings, is Red Cliff jingju? No. Is it acceptable to call it jingju nonetheless, or is it completely deceiving foreigners? Ruining the reputation of China’s national essence? Wasting the taxes payed by Chinese citizens? I don’t think so. Fact one who isn’t familiar with Beijing Opera won’t get a crystal clear picture of it by watching Red Cliff, however it might sparkle some interest in his heart.
Let’s be sincere, how many of us started our Beijing Opera watching career with Yan Jupeng gramophone recordings? You get the point.

Better proceed to my actual report-back.

The show was moderated by popular hungarian actor, Péter Rudolf, widely known for his hip sense of humor. He read out loud a brief introduction about Beijing Opera in general, how it came into being, what are the main roles, everything was correct and well-phrased. He also precisely delineated the story, the Chinese-Hungarian booklet also contained a nice plot summary and detailed cast and crew lists. What’s more, Hungarian translation of the dialogues and arias were displayed during the performance, but I didn’t really watch because I find it distracting, and the screen was too high up for me anyways. Now and then I peeped and the sub seemed to be fair, yet not as good as ninedragonspot’s translations.

As expected, spactators were warned to switch off every mobile phone and camera during the show, I made a few sound recordings but committed the classic rec/pause mix-up mistake in the dark, thus gracefully switching my camera off during Zhu Qiang’s single bigger scene I was waiting for.

Wang Yige (王奕戈), who recently changed her name to 王奕謌 (possibly hinting that she’s a hybrid performer herself, singing also in Western and folk style), delivered a marvelous intro and outro from the orchestra pit, although the songs had nothing to do with traditional jingju, fitted the general feeling of the whole opera.

Wang Yige wore an elegant yet somewhat revealing black dress, with lots of tastefully arranged jewelry. I had a first row seat, so I could effortlessly have a close look at the musicians, instruments and scores. Almost every fellow citizen did the same in the intermission, actually scores and instrumentation seemed to be the biggest hit, discussed animatedly by spectators.

I was wedged between senior ladies (who constantly whine about their pension, yet can afford a ticket that costs 10% of the wage of an average Hungarian citizen), I think they really enjoyed the performance, although they commented that the gongs and drums are too loud, and Li Hongtu’s voice perforates their eardrums. I restrained myself from retorting “What if they would have brought Jin Xiquan?”, it would have been pointless. Li Hongtu surely left a good impression on me, I liked him much better live than on videos.
All in all everyone was amplified optimally, except Zhang Jianfeng, somehow I couldn’t hear him properly. It’s a pity since I choose this performance instead of the Yu Kuizhi-Li Shengsu version because I wanted to check out this young Xi school laosheng on the spot.

This show was featuring many-many performers, most of them spent only a few minutes on the stage, I felt this is some kind of waste, I couldn’t hear Du Zhe or Zhang Kai sing a paragraph of reasonable length. However I caught sight of my beloved Zhan Lei in the crowd of soldiers, also he had a short armor-less fighting scene later. Sun Shangxiang was played by Zhang Shujing, pauvre petite dropped her spear once, this was the single bigger flaw I noticed during this show.

I won’t elaborate on the story of Red Cliff, you could see exactly the same performance in the previously posted video. I may add that the stage sets are not that huge and distracting as they seem.

Embarrassing moment during the performance:
In one of the scenes of Xiao Qiao (portrayed by Dou Xiaoxuan) and Zhou Yu (portrayed by Li Hongtu), Zhou lets out a really squeaky “Niangziiii!” (My wife!). This moment was rewarded with a noticeably loud laughter by one of my fellow citizens, I wished to crawl under a rock and explode there.

However, Li Shengsu was very satisfied with the audience previous day, she said during her 30 years career of performing Beijing Opera, she never met such warm welcome. PR or not, at least our town won’t go down in history like the place populated by barbarians.

A few photos that aren’t too blurry for your viewing pleasure:

During curtain call, I handed my little packet with a plush toy to one of the musicians, asking him to forward it to Zhu Qiang. For my relief he was pretty enthusiastic about the unexpected task, and kept his word because after everyone removed make-up in Planck time and the performers were dragging themselves to the tour bus, I spotted Zhu Qiang examining my plushie.

Of course I took the opportunity to ask for a photo and introduced myself with my online nickname. Previously we exchanged a few messages and although I mentioned I’m foreigner, he thought I’m ethnic Chinese.
He was talking to me fairly enthusiastically, I was just nodding continuously, repeating “I don’t really understand”, finally after taking a few photos we parted with the conclusion it will be better to keep contact online in written form. God bless the net. (I finally got back that “Follow” I was longing for. XD)

I’m not very fond of exposing my appearance on the net, yet I don’t think it would be fair to not post a photo, so here it is:

On the picture with Li Hongtu I look so horrible that first I didn’t want to share it, but managed to handle the issue:

Meanwhile the whole cast and crew arrived to Prague, the hotel is somewhat far from the inner city but they are doing fine.

2012-07-12 Everyone returned to Beijing in order.

Media feedback: french.china.org.cnwww.chncpa.org/2012-07-05www.chncpa.org/2012-07-09www.chncpa.org/2012-07-10

Happy Lunar New Year! Here are the videos I promised.

The Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala of CCTV4 was a severely edited version, however, two excerpts appear only in this shorter edition, namely Chen Shaoyun’s costumeless Chasing Han Xin and Zhu Qiang’s Ganlu Temple. Both performers are my huge favorites, so I’m really grateful to the editor.
I converted the video to mp4 format with Handbrake, using the deinterlacing filter. Of course the original files are much better, but huge-ish (7GB) and best viewed on TV.

I downloaded the full version from the CNTV site, it comes in five parts. The screenshots below show the quality, I think it’s not bad. Five hours total, so don’t forget to pile up dumplings and soft drinks on your TV table if you’re adventurous enough to watch it in one go.

There are two bonus clips too, from the CCTV Spring Festival Gala: a performance by amateur jingju artists, including the adorable kid Duoduo (Li Peize), and a clip titled “New Drunken Concubine” – can you believe this elegant Guifei is actually a handsome boy?

Downloads:

CCTV4 Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala highlights edition part1
CCTV4 Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala highlights edition part2
(mp4, 720×576)

CCTV Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala full version
(rar, 480×360)

CCTV Spring Festival Gala amateur performers’ scene
《戏迷一家亲》 “Theater fans are one big family”
– Sanjiadian – Gao Changzhi (高长志)
– Mu Guiying Takes Command – Zhang Jie (张杰)
– Xu Ce Runs to the City Walls – Li Peize (李沛泽)
– Beheading Chen Shimei – Li Zelin (李泽林)
(VOB, 720×576)

Bonus clip
《新贵妃醉酒》Xin Guifei Zuijiu (New Drunken Concubine) – Li Yugang (李玉刚)
(VOB, 720×576)

I’m an unconditional Duoduo fan, that’s just natural he was my favorite from the show. I’m daring to say he grabbed the spirit of this character more firmly than some of the adult performers, what’s more, he’s a bit different every time, not just repeating the same performance as a robot. He appears in both the Chinese Opera Gala and the “plain” Gala, unfortunately the cameraman of the latter had a keen sense to zoom out or show the audience when a close-up of the kid was needed.
Li Zelin as underage Judge Bao was also very cute.


Duoduo as Xu Ce

Yuan Huiqin chose her excerpt wisely: the role of an armored elderly female warrior suits her much better than the miserable old lady of Golden Tortoise Fishing what she performed at the Shanghai Spring Festival concert this week. She’s not that typical old and slow-moving laodan…

I was happy that Dong Yuanyuan, my favorite Mei qingyi had the opportunity to show us her Drunken Concubine, and Li Shengsu was popularizing Female Generals of the Yangs instead.

The Red Cliff trio was excellent – and surprise of surprises, this time I liked Zhang Jianfeng more than Jin Xiquan.

Maybe Zhao Xiujun isn’t the most beautiful Zhang school qingyi of all times, and not as grandiose as Wang Rongrong, but I still like her artistic approach.


Zhao Xiujun

I don’t listen to Henan opera very often, but Li Shujian is mind-blowing, seemingly he doesn’t have to make extraordinary efforts to sing like that. I bet he will get a third Plum Blossom Award one time.

I already elaborated on in my own blog that something isn’t right about Yu Kuizhi nowadays… at least I feel so. Maybe his appointment as vice-president is too much of a burden, or he simply reached his limits, I don’t know. This time he came with an excerpt from Shang Tian Tai – there are plays he’s more an expert of, moreover, where is that sparkle in the eyes? There was a point when I thought he will fall asleep. I’m really, really disappointed, and sad as well.

Yan (Jupeng) school laosheng Chen Shengjie represents a style you don’t hear often, and he’s really good. His Zhuge Liang was so… Zhuge Liang-ish. I mean this is exactly how I imagine someone whose head is full of stratagems and serious thoughts.


Chen Shengjie

Li Baochun definitely has his own style, which couldn’t sweep me off my feet like his father’s did, but yet he’s fun to watch and Chang Qiuyue is one of my preferences – this duet was lovely.


Li Fengjie and Emperor Zhengde – men never change. Women never change.

Highlight of the show: Li Jun finally got rid of his metal kitchen scrubber-like hair that was a laughingstock of the public for way too long. Actually for the sake of a new play (also featuring Xiong Mingxia, I’ll upload it later), but the change is welcome.

And many more, many more. Enjoy!

Tracklist (highlights edition):

  • 开场舞蹈《龙腾盛世》
    Opening dance stage “Flourishing Age of the Dragon”
  • 京剧《珠帘寨》选段 表演:马 力、蓝天、傅希如
    jingju Pearl Screen Fort (Ma Li, Lan Tian, Fu Xiru)
  • 京剧《花田错》选段 表演:张佳春、唐禾香
    jingju Mistake at the Flower Field (Zhang Guichun, Tang Hexiang)
  • 豫剧《大登殿》选段 表演:李树建
    Henan opera The Great Enthronement (Li Shujian)
  • 评剧《花为媒》选段 表演:曾昭娟
    pingju Hua Wei Mei (Zeng Zhaojuan)
  • 河北梆子《穆桂英挂帅》选段 表演:许荷英
    Hebei bangzi Mu Guiying Takes Command (Xu Heying)
  • 相声《送年戏》 表演:何云伟、李菁
    comic sketch introducing different folk singing styles (He Yunwei, Li Jing)
  • 京剧《贵妃醉酒》选段 表演:董圆圆
    jingju The Drunken Concubine (Dong Yuanyuan)
  • 京剧《对花枪》选段 表演:袁慧琴
    jingju The Matching Spears (Yuan Huiqin)
  • 京剧《孙安动本》选段 表演:倪茂才
    jingju Sun An Dong Ben (Ni Maocai)
  • 京剧《大登殿》选段 表演:迟小秋
    jingju The Great Enthronement (Chi Xiaoqiu)
  • 京剧《上天台》选段 表演:于魁智
    jingju Ascending the Heavenly Altar (Yu Kuizhi)
  • 川剧《春夜喜雨》选段 表演:陈巧茹
    Sichuan opera Spring Night Welcome Rain (Chen Qiaoru)
  • 越剧《何文秀》选段 表演:萧雅
    Shaoxing opera He Wenxiu (Xiao Ya)
  • 黄梅戏《满山杜鹃》选段 表演:吴琼
    Huangmei opera Cuckoo of Manshan (Wu Qiong)
  • 京剧《赤壁》选段 表演:王越、张建峰、金喜全
    jingju Red Cliff (Wang Yue, Zhang Jianfeng, Jin Xiquan)
  • 京剧《沙桥饯别》选段 表演:王珮瑜
    jingju Farewell Dinner at Sandy Bridge (Wang Peiyu)
  • 京剧《甘露寺》选段 表演:朱强
    jingju Ganlu Temple (Zhu Qiang)
  • 京剧《太真外传》选段 表演:史依弘
    jingju Unofficial Biography of Taizhen (Shi Yihong)
  • 京剧《姚期》选段 表演:孟广禄
    jingju Yao Qi (Meng Guanglu)
  • 京剧《捉放曹》选段 表演:杨乃彭
    jingju Capturing and Releasing Cao Cao (Yang Naipeng)
  • 京剧《萧何月下追韩信》选段 表演:陈少云
    jingju Xiao He Chasing Han Xin Under the Moonlight (Chen Shaoyun)
  • 高甲戏《金龙焕彩》选段 表演:福建晋江高甲戏剧院
    Gaojia opera Brilliant Golden Dragon (Jinjiang (Fujian) Gaojia Opera Troupe)
  • 京歌《难忘今宵》 表演:丁晓君、张馨月、唐禾香、张佳春、吴昊颐、王润菁
    Beijing opera song This Night is Unforgettable (Ding Xiaojun, Zhang Xinyue, Tang Hexiang, Zhang Jiachun, Wu Haoyi, Wang Runjing

Tracklist (full edition):

  • 开场舞蹈《龙腾盛世》
    Opening dance stage “Flourishing Age of the Dragon”
  • 京剧《珠帘寨》选段 表演:马 力、蓝天、傅希如
    jingju Pearl Screen Fort (Ma Li, Lan Tian, Fu Xiru)
  • 京剧《花田错》选段 表演:张佳春、唐禾香
    jingju Mistake at the Flower Field (Zhang Guichun, Tang Hexiang)
  • 京剧《战北原》选段 表演:陈圣杰
    jingju Battle of Bei Yuan (Chen Shengjie)
  • 京剧《将相和》选段 表演:谭正岩、方旭
    jingju The Minister and The General Reconcile (Tan Zhengyan, Fang Xu)
  • 京剧《诗文会》选段 表演:赵秀君
    jingju Meeting by Poetry (Zhao Xiujun)
  • 京剧《沙桥饯别》选段 表演:王珮瑜
    jingju Farewell Dinner at Sandy Bridge (Wang Peiyu)
  • 豫剧《大登殿》选段 表演:李树建
    Henan opera The Great Enthronement (Li Shujian)
  • 评剧《花为媒》选段 表演:曾昭娟
    pingju Hua Wei Mei (Zeng Zhaojuan)
  • 1河北梆子《穆桂英挂帅》选段 表演:许荷英
    Hebei bangzi Mu Guiying Takes Command (Xu Heying)
  • 相声《送年戏》 表演:何云伟、李菁
    comic sketch (He Yunwei, Li Jing)
  • 京剧《贵妃醉酒》选段 表演:董圆圆
    jingju The Drunken Concubine (Dong Yuanyuan)
  • 京剧《对花枪》选段 表演:袁慧琴
    jingju The Matching Spears (Yuan Huiqin)
  • 京剧《孙安动本》选段 表演:倪茂才
    jingju Sun An Dong Ben (Ni Maocai)
  • 京剧《大登殿》选段 表演:迟小秋
    jingju The Great Enthronement (Chi Xiaoqiu)
  • 京剧《坐寨》选段 表演:杨赤
    jingju Sitting in the Camp (Yang Chi)
  • 京剧《金水桥》选段 表演:张艳玲
    jingju Golden Water Bridge (Zhang Yanling)
  • 戏曲小品《真假包龙图》  表演:朱世慧、王嘉庆、李泽琳、王越
    Chinese Opera skit Bao Zheng Examines the Dragon Image (Zhu Shihui, Wang Jiaqing, Li Zelin, Wang Yue)
  • 高甲戏《金龙焕彩》选段 表演:福建晋江高甲戏剧院
    Gaojia opera Brilliant Golden Dragon (Jinjiang (Fujian) Gaojia Opera Troupe)
  • 越剧《何文秀》选段 表演:萧雅
    Shaoxing opera He Wenxiu (Xiao Ya)
  • 黄梅戏《满山杜鹃》选段 表演:吴琼
    Huangmei opera Cuckoo of Manshan (Wu Qiong)
  • 昆曲《红楼梦•宝黛初见》选段 表演:邵天帅、施夏明、朱冰贞、翁佳慧
    kunqu Dream of Red Mansions – The First Meeting (Shao Tianshuai, Shi Xiaming, Zhu Bingzhen, Weng Jiahui)
  • 京剧《梅龙镇》选段 表演:李宝春(中国台湾)、常秋月
    jingju Meilong Village (Li Baochun, Chang Qiuyue)
  • 京剧《武家坡》选段 表演:谭孝曾、魏海敏(中国台湾)
    jingju Wujiapo (Tan Xiaozeng, Wei Haimin)
  • 京剧《孟母三迁》选段 表演:吴汝俊
    jingju Mencius’ Mother Relocates Three Times (Wu Rujun)
  • 少儿京剧联唱
    kiddy jingju:
    – 京剧《野猪林》选段 表演:姜舒源
    jingju Wildboar Forest (Jiang Shuyuan)
    – 京剧《穆桂英挂帅》选段 表演:赵跃然
    jingju Mu Guiying Takes Command (Zhao Yueran)
    – 京剧《天女散花》选段 表演:王萌
    jingju Heavenly Maiden Showering Flowers (Wang Meng)
    – 京剧《徐策跑城》选段 表演:李佩泽
    jingju Xu Ce Runs to the City Walls (Li Peize)
  • 戏曲小品《龙妈招亲》 表演:徐孟珂、金不换、威廉、玛利亚等
    Chinese Opera skit Mother Dragon Invites the Groom (Xu Mengke, Jin Buhuan, William, Mary etc.)
  • 京剧《龙凤呈祥》选段 表演:吕 洋 、吴昊颐、张馨月
    jingju Harmony Through a Royal Marriage (Lü Yang, Wu Haoyi, Zhang Xinyue)
  • 京剧《草船借箭》选段 表演:陈少云、朱强
    jingju Boating to Borrow Arrows (Chen Shaoyun, Zhu Qiang)
  • 京剧《捉放曹》选段 表演:杨乃彭
    jingju Capturing and Releasing Cao Cao (Yang Naipeng)
  • 京剧《赤壁》选段 表演:王越、张建峰、金喜全
    jingju Red Cliff (Wang Yue, Zhang Jianfeng, Jin Xiquan)
  • 京剧《太真外传》选段 表演:史依弘
    jingju Unofficial Biography of Taizhen (Shi Yihong)
  • 京剧《洪洋洞》选段 表演:张克
    jingju Hongyang Cave (Zhang Ke)
  • 京剧《八珍汤》选段 表演:赵葆秀、翟墨、黄丽珠
    jingju Eight Treasure Decoction (Zhao Baoxiu, Zhai Mo, Huang Lizhu)
  • 京剧《双投唐》选段 表演:安 平、张建峰
    jingju Shuang Tou Tang (An Ping, Zhang Jianfeng)
  • 京剧《三家店》选段 表演:耿其昌
    jingju Sanjia Inn (Geng Qichang)
  • 京剧《望江亭》选段 表演:王蓉蓉
    jingju Riverside Pavilion (Wang Rongrong)
  • 京剧《姚期》选段 表演:孟广禄
    jingju Yao Qi (Meng Guanglu)
  • 京剧《汉苏武》选段 表演:张建国、郭霄
    jingju Han Su Wu (Zhang Jianguo, Guo Xiao)
  • 京剧《赤壁》选段 表演:李宏图、窦晓璇
    jingju Red Cliff (Li Hongtu, Dou Xiaoxuan)
  • 京剧《下鲁城》选段 表演:杜镇杰
    jingju Battle of Lucheng (Du Zhenjie)
  • 京剧《大漠昭君》选段 表演:姜亦姗
    jingju Zhaojun of the Desert (Jiang Yishan)
  • 川剧《春夜喜雨》选段 表演:陈巧茹
    Sichuan opera Spring Night Welcome Rain (Chen Qiaoru)
  • 秦腔《彩楼配》选段 表演:李军梅
    Qinqiang Match Made at the Colorful Tower (Li Junmei)
  • 沪剧《庵堂相会》选段 表演:钱思剑
    Shanghai opera Meeting in the Nunnery (Qian Sijian)
  • 二人台《挂红灯》选段 表演:许美珍、蒙吉珍
    Inner Mongolian folk duet Watching the Lanterns (Xu Meizhen, Meng Jizhen)
  • 相声《学唱现代戏》 表演:陈印泉、侯振鹏
    comic sketch Let’s Learn to Sing Modern Opera (Chen Yinquan, Hou Zhenpeng)
  • 京剧《黛诺》选段 表演:李维康
    jingju Dai Nuo (Li Weikang)
  • 京剧《杜鹃山》选段 表演:王润菁
    jingju Cuckoo Mountain (Wang Runjing)
  • 京剧《红色娘子军》选段  表演:丁晓君
    jingju Red Detachment of Women (Ding Xiaojun)
  • 戏曲小品《五帅闯西天》 表演:宋宁、谢楠、魏嘉艺、杨松、何军、大牛(英国)
    Chinese Opera skit Five Generals Take the Western Paradise (Song Ning, Xie Nan, Wei Jiayi, Yang Song, He Jun, Daniel (UK))
  • 京剧《坐宫》选段 表演:李军、林林
    jingju Sitting in the Palace (Li Jun, Lin Lin)
  • 京剧《凤还巢》选段 表演:包飞、兰海皎
    jingju The Phoenix Returns to the Nest (Bao Fei, Lan Haijiao)
  • 京剧《状元媒》选段 表演:薛亚萍
    jingju Top Scholar as Matchmaker (Xue Yaping)
  • 京剧《锁麟囊》选段 表演:李佩红
    The Unicorn Purse (Li Peihong)
  • 京剧《杨门女将》选段 表演:李胜素
    jingju Female Generals of the Yangs (Li Shengsu)
  • 京剧《上天台》选段 表演:于魁智
    jingju Ascending the Heavenly Altar (Yu Kuizhi)
  • 京剧武戏集锦  表演:阎虹羽、冯蕴、杨亚男等
    Jingju wuxi Best Of (Yan Hongyu, Feng Yun, Yang Yanan etc.)
  • 京歌《难忘今宵》 表演:丁晓君、张馨月、唐禾香、张佳春、吴昊颐、王润菁
    Beijing opera song This Night is Unforgettable (Ding Xiaojun, Zhang Xinyue, Tang Hexiang, Zhang Jiachun, Wu Haoyi, Wang Runjing)

As we mentioned already, today would be the 91th birthday of Beijing Opera master Zhang Junqiu. 91 isn’t a round number, so no big commemorating concert this year, but don’t afraid, last year almost 30 artists gathered in the National Political Consultative Hall in Beijing to celebrate the occasion.

Noted Beijing Opera artists, students, followers and family members of Zhang Junqiu came to show their appreciation, including two of his most well-known disciples, Wang Rongrong and Xue Yaping.

Zhang Junqiu and Wu Lizhen’s son, Zhang Xuehao was also present, together with his new wife Dong Cuinuo, a talented disciple of his father. Another relative appearing on the stage was Zhang Xin, wife of Zhang Xuehao’s younger brother, Zhang Xuejiang. Without a doubt, the Zhang family is a real opera family. -‿-

Another point of interest was the last duo, Mei Baojiu and his brilliant disciple Hu Wenge, who was just featured in a complete opera here.

This group photo comes from the CCTV Forum, you can find more great pictures there:


Zhao Fangyuan, Zhang Qiting, Zhang Leilei, Wu Haoyi, Wang Pan, Jiang Yishan, Wang Runjing, Yang Yongshu, Zhang Ping, Wen Ruhua, Dong Cuinuo (changed dress), Zhang Xuehao, Xue Yaping, Wang Rongrong, Zhao Xiujun, Zhang Xuemin, Zhang Xin, Zhang Liyuan, Zhao Qun, Wang Yige, Wan Xiaohui, Hong Yan, Liu Dong

Concert celebrating Zhang Junqiu’s 90th birthday

Click here to download the video.

Length: 2:48:26 File size: 445MB, 720×432 Extension: MKV
20 September 2010, National Political Consultative Hall, Beijing
Broadcast in CCTV’s Theater in the Air on 27 October 2010.

List of performers:

0:02:45《女起解》Nü Qi Jie (Su San Sent Out Under Guard) – Zhang Qiting  (张其婷)
0:03:34《春秋配》Chun Qiu Pei (Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian) – Liu Dong (刘栋)
0:04:30《秦香莲》Qin Xianglian – Wu Haoyi (吴昊颐)
0:05:40《望江亭》Wangjiang Ting (Riverside Pavilion) – Wang Yige (王奕戈)
0:06:22《诗文会》Shi Wen Hui (Meeting by Poetry) – Zhao Fangyuan (赵芳媛)

0:07:15《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – Dong Xueping (董雪萍)
0:09:13《楚宫恨》Chu Gong Hen (Sorrow in Chu Palace) – Wan Xiaohui (万晓慧)
0:11:11《坐宫》Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace) – Hong Yan (洪岩), Zhang Leilei (张蕾蕾), Tan Zhengyan (谭正岩)
0:15:10《秋瑾》Qiu Jin – Wang Pan (王盼)
0:20:43《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) –  Zhang Liyuan (张笠媛)
0:26:52《诗文会》Shi Wen Hui (Meeting by Poetry) – Zhao Qun (赵群)
0:30:32《女起解》Nü Qi Jie (Su San Sent Out Under Guard) – Jiang Yishan (姜亦珊)
0:36:35《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Zhao Orphan) – Yang Yongshu (杨永树)
Uncle Yang is an amateur actor, inspired by Zhang Junqiu’s art since childhood. He isn’t an official disciple of Mr. Zhang but it’s said there was an outstanding teacher-student relationship between them.

0:41:15《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – Zhang Xin (张新)
0:49:25《彩楼记》Cai Lou Ji (Tale of the Decorated Chamber) – Wang Runjing (王润菁)
0:55:33《银屏公主》Yinping Gongzhu (Princess Yinping) – Zhang Xuehao (张学浩)
1:03:28《打渔杀家》Da Yu Sha Jia (The Fishermen’s Revenge) – Wen Ruhua (温如华)
1:06:38《楚宫恨》Chu Gong Hen (Sorrow in Chu Palace) – Zhao Xiujun (赵秀君)
1:20:30《刘兰芝》Liu Lanzhi – Dong Cuinuo (董翠娜)

1:28:32《西厢记》Xi Xiang Ji (Romance of the West Chamber) – Zhang Ping (张萍)
1:34:10《望江亭》Wangjiang Ting (Riverside Pavilion) – Zhang Xuemin (张学敏)
1:37:48《苏武牧羊》Su Wu Mu Yang (Su Wu as Shepherd) – Zhu Qiang (朱强)
1:42:37《锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – Chi Xiaoqiu (迟小秋)
1:48:44《周仁献嫂》Zhou Ren Xian Sao (Zhou Ren Offering His Brother’s Wife) – Li Hongtu (李宏图)
1:56:42《捉放曹》Zhuo Fang Cao (Capturing and Releasing Cao Cao) – Du Zhenjie (杜镇杰)
2:02:15《西厢记》Xi Xiang Ji (Romance of the West Chamber) – Wang Rongrong (王蓉蓉)
2:07:20《韩玉娘》Han Yuniang – Zhang Ke (张克)

2:13:44《怜香伴》Lian Xiang Ban (A Gentle Companion) – Xue Yaping (薛亚萍)
2:19:00《铡美案》Zha Mei An (Case of Chen Shimei) – Meng Guanglu (孟广禄)
2:24:08《四郎探母》Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother) – Zhao Baoxiu (赵葆秀)
2:27:55《辕门射戟》Yuanmen She Ji (The Magic Arrow Shot) – Ye Shaolan (叶少兰)
2:34:06《横槊赋诗》Heng Shuo Fu Shi (Cao Cao Sings an Ode with Long Lance) – Shang Changrong (尚长荣)
2:37:27《贵妃醉酒》Guifei Zuijiu (The Drunken Concubine) – Mei Baojiu (梅葆玖), Hu Wenge (胡文阁)
2:43:00《忆秦娥·娄山关》 Yi Qin’e·Lou Shan Guan (Remembering Qin’e – Loushan Pass) – Zhang Junqiu (张君秋)
This is an old tune with Mao’s new lyrics.

The little slideshow thing starting at 2:45:53 is featuring a few pictures of Zhang Junqiu I haven’t met online before, for example this colored one from The Orphan of the Zhao Family:

My personal favorites this time were Wu Haoyi, Zhao Qun, Dong Cuinuo and Du Zhenjie.
Fanciest outfit: Wang Yige (Bertrand found an article in English about this girl back in July, which I did not forget just carefully saved up for this post. Thank you Bertrand!)
Best optical illusion shirt: Wen Ruhua
Most original excerpt: Zhang Ke
Performer forcing me to sing-along: Zhu Qiang

I hope you’ll enjoy this video and all the famous arias.
See You next week!

A withering look from the Empress in Xie Yahuan

This production was performed by the National Beijing Opera troupe at the Chang’an Grand Theater in Beijing, on 2011-06-06. It was broadcast on CCTV’s “Theater In the Air” program two weeks later on 2011-06-23.

The tragic Beijing opera “Xie Yaohuan” was created by the famous Chinese playwright Tian Han, in 1961. The title was named after the heroine Xie Yaohuan, an official in the reign of Empress Wu Zetian.

The story (adapted from here):

During the reign of Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty, many farmers in the southern region of the Yangtze River fled to join outlaws at Tai Lake because of despotic gentries ruling them. A woman official, Xie Yaohuan, asks the rulers to appease these farmers. Empress Wu Zetian, holding her in high esteem, appoints her to the imperial censor and sends her on an inspection tour of south China.

When Xie arrives in Suzhou, she sees that Wu Hong, a son of Wu Sansi who was a powerful courtier and nephew of Wu Zetian, and Cai Shaobing, a brother of Lai Junchen (AD 651-697) who was a secret police official during the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian’s Zhou Dynasty, were bullying residents and tussling with righteous Yuan Xingjian during a public gathering. She takes them to Yamun for trial and judges both Wu Hong and Cai Shaobing guilty. Wu and Cai defy the judgement. As Wu and Cai are in contempt of court, Xie orders  Cai beheaded and Wu bludgeoned to death. At the same time, she discovers Yuan Xingjian as a chivalrous man during this affair, and marries him.

However, avenging accomplices, Wu Sansi and Lai Junchen, falsely accuse Xie of having connections with bandits. Empress Wu Zetian decides to investigate the allegation, and arranges a clandestine tour to south China. In the meantime, Xie is thrown into the prison, awaiting execution. After investigating herself, the furious empress orders Lai Junchen executed and Wu Sansi dismissed from his post. She then ennobles Xie Yaohuan Marquis Dingguo. But Xie refuses to go to her post, preferring to be buried alive with her husband Yuan Xingjian in Tai Lake.

Dozens of people play in this opera, it seems. Fern provided the following cast list:

Xie Yaohuan: Zhang Xinyue (张馨月)
Yuan Xingjian: Li Hongtu (李宏图)
Xu Yougong: Zhu Qiang (朱强)
Empress Wu Zetian: Hu Wenge (胡文阁)
Wu Sansi: Chen Junjie (陈俊杰)
Lai Junchen: Huang Yanzhong (黄彦忠)  Head of Tang dynasty Gestapo. Boo!
Su Luangxian: Wang Mengting (王梦婷)
Cai Shaobing, Wu Hong: Zhou Pu (周璞), Huang Baixue (黄柏雪) (the 2 chou characters)

Huang Baixue’s name seemed familiar, he was one of the tax collectors in the tiger-version Barren Mountain. And now I remember, Zhou Pu was supposed to play the other tax collector in that performance, but for some reason another actor substituted him. Seems these two performers are frequently paired up(?)

 

Some photos of this performance (which were spotted here):

Hu Wenge as the Empress in Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

The big surprise of this opera for me is that the cast features actor Hu Wenge as the Empress, the only male Mei school dan in the past 50 years.

Let me say right off, before Fern told me the Empress was a cross-dressing role, Hu Wenge had me completely fooled and I thought “she” was a terrific “actress”! Hu Wenge sings effortlessly, and honestly, the more you watch him, the more he fools you. An absolutely top notch, superlative performance. “The Empress” is so deliciously evil in this, with those evil sidelong glances, I mean… she literally shoots lightning bolts from those peepers, whew! At about three minutes in, the live Chinese audience already, and deservedly, applauds after Hu Wenge sings his opening.

Fern, you’re going to kill me for this, but to me Cheng Yanqiu is not half as convincing in a female role as Hu Wenge in this production.

There is an English language article here about this interesting actor , from which an excerpt is reproduced here:

A third-generation successor of the Mei school, (Hu Wenge) has realized a childhood dream.

“When I was young, in the opera school where I studied, my teacher teaching Chinese culture wrote a name ‘Mei Lanfang’ on the blackboard. I didn’t know then who he was. My teacher then told me he was the model of all of us who studied the arts. So I engraved this name in my head and set him as my target. Although I knew he was so superior to me, so far away from me, I still regarded him as my spiritual support.”

Hu Wenge was studying Qinqiang, a local opera in northwest China’s Shaanxi province. But for seven years, he had been continuously requesting to be the student of Mei Baojiu, Mei Lanfang’s son and also China’s Peking Opera master. His unparalleled perseverance and sincerity finally moved Mei. In 2001, when Hu was already 30 years old, he eventually switched his study to Peking Opera.

Studying Peking Opera from the very beginning at the late age of 30 is not easy. Now, eight years on, Mei Baojiu is satisfied with his student.

“Hu Wenge was my only student learning the role of male Dan in Peking Opera. He is talented and also very diligent.”

Enjoying wide-spread popularity, Hu Wenge’s appearances can be on both domestic and international stages. Hu Wenge says this kind of popularity is not new to him as he enjoyed it when he was a pop singer.

It is hard to imagine this tender and feminine voice is Hu Wenge’s, but it is. With this unique voice and presentation, He Wenge seized wide fame across south China between the 1980s to the 1990s. Hu Wenge says his performances were blockbuster events back then.

“It is hard to talk about my life. The fact is, when I graduated from the Qinqiang Opera School, China’s reform and opening-up policy had started. So I also opened up a new life as a pop singer. I was the first person to try tomato and my creative making-up as a woman and singing as a woman was novel to try at that time. I was a hit then and many singers of my generation feared performing together with me as they couldn’t rival my popularity.”

However, Hu Wenge adds that he suffered as equally as he enjoyed the fame and the fortune.

“I always felt people’s eyes on me. I could see fondness and appreciation in some, but never respect. They called me many terrible things. I was hurt a lot spiritually, more than any other singer.”

Hu Wenge made up his mind to follow his idol, Mei Lanfang, from the very beginning. Now he is on a road he dreamed of and on a stage which brings him more success and respect.

Hue Wenge

This is a dynamic production with nice sets and a lot of actors!

Some personal viewing notes:

The antics of the 2 chous at 25 minutes are a highlight for me; you don’t see chous singing and dancing very often, and these two are excellent. This verges on early American vaudeville. Anyway, I asked for an orange and purple hat for my birthday just like the one worn by one of the clowns, but never got one.

A painful-looking and rather gratuitous tumble at 41:00 or so… Careful with your back, young man!

I wasn’t crazy about the speeded-up aria at 1:01. It was a bit all over the place.

I’m not sure what the bad guy pantomimed at 1:13 before exiting? I think hiding a sack of money, but I’m not sure.

Gorgeous embroidery on the lady’s costume at 1:19, but the romance takes so long… Whew!

The two jinghu players play their instrument on the same side but wear their watches on different hands. Interesting.

In conclusion, to me it needs to be said, it seems everyone is more interesting in this opera than Xie Yaohuan and Yuan Xingjian. The two leads did not thrill me. I was sort of hoping to see an ending featuring them scream in abject terror as they are buried alive, instead there is very nice breezy music in the final scene that basically made me hungry for dim sum. The opera ends with a swipe from the boat scene in the White Snake.

I guess it’s time for a snack.

 

Click here to download the video. File size is 1.2 GB and file format is .mkv, playable in VLC.

 

And enjoy that Empress!

;)

 

Qiu Shengrong, possibly the most well-known great master of the painted face role has been mentioned a few times lately. I realized he was born on 25 August, 1915 – so a commemorative post seems to be appropriate, though a few days later.

I decided to feature two videos: a Qiu school classic arias large-scale Beijing opera concert and a lip-synced staging of Zha Mei An. The concert is large-scale indeed, almost 3 hours long. I was pondering for a while that I edit it and post a shorter, easier-to-digest version, but finally I couldn’t “cut out” any performers.
The stage play is more friendly in size, half an hour in all.

I know it will be a little massive, but an extraordinary experience after all. Let’s rock.

《铡美案》 Zha Mei An (Legal Case of Chen Shimei)

Practically a shorter edition of Qin Xianglian. Bertrand already wrote a summary to this story, sparing me the effort. Undoubtedly Bao Zheng is the most well-known painted face character in Beijing opera, a righteous judge easily recognizable for his black face paint, with a white half-moon shaped birthmark on his forehead. He’s investigating every case carefully, and the criminals usually have to face decapitation, just like in this case.

Click here to download the video.
Length: 33:30 File size: 106MB, 480×360 Extension: MP4

Cast:
Bao Zheng: Li Changchun (李长春) Voice recording: Qiu Shengrong (裘盛戎)
Chen Shimei: Xin Baoda (辛宝达) Voice recording: Li Hezeng (李和曾)

 

Personal favorite spot: 30:23
Click here to download this particular 1957 archive sound recording in wma format. (Courtesy of Xiaodouzhi.)

《裘韵流芳》Qiu Yun Liu Fang (The Beautiful Sound Heritage of Qiu Shengrong)

Beijing Opera concert commemorating Qiu Shengrong’s 95th birthday
30 October 2010; Mei Lanfang Grand Theater, Beijing

I found superb photos of this performance in the blog of a Qiu fan, check it out. You find more great photos here.
Many performers already have their own category here and need no introduction. The MC is Zhang Zhe again.

Click here to download this mammoth concert.
Length: 2:52:30 File size: 691MB, 720×576 Extension: MKV

1. Appreciating Beijing opera tunes:《夜深沉》Ye Shenchen (Deep Night)
A truly impressive musical performance of the accompanists.
Drummer: Yang Guangtong; jinghu: Ai Bing

2. 《姚期》Yao Qi – Kang Wansheng (康万生)

A much appreciated first-class artist from Tianjin.

3. 《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Orphan of the Zhaos) – Fang Xu (方旭)

Zhang Zhe provides us with the information that the lately featured young man is currently student of Meng Guanglu.  Old Meng’s official master was greatly appreciated teacher Fang Rongxiang (方荣翔), who happens to be the grandfather of Fang Xu. Family and disciplic relations are sometimes complicated in the Pear Garden…


Fang Rongxiang with the young Meng Guanglu


4. 《空城计》Kong Cheng Ji (Empty City Strategy) – Tan Zhengyan (谭正岩)

As I mentioned before these two are always together… Little Tan has a very characteristic voice. I change my mind weekly whether I like him or not. Download the same excerpt with Tan Fuying in MP3 format. (Courtesy of Bertrand)

5.《雪花飘》Xuehua Piao (Floating Snowflake); 《南方来信》Nanfang Laixin (Letters from the South) – Liu Jiaxin (刘嘉欣)

Female jing of Tianjin Beijing Opera Theater. I liked her. Both excerpts are from modern Beijing Operas; the first one is about a locomotive engineer who goes to find the technician at New Year’s Eve in the biggest snowstorm to get the generator of the factory fixed; the second one is from an adaptation of playwright Fu Duo’s collected letters, depicting the Vietnamese people’s fight during the war.

6. 《除三害》Chu San Hai (Eliminating Three Evils) – Wei Jijun (魏积军)

7. 《苏武牧羊》Su Wu Mu Yang (Su Wu as Shepherd) – Zhu Qiang (朱强)

My personal preference Ma school laosheng Zhu Qiang came with his trademark role Su Wu again. Check him out in Go West - Bertrand hit the nail on the head with the post title: Yu Kuizhi well accompanied. 

8. 《海瑞罢官》Hai Rui Ba Guan (Hai Rui Dismissed from Office) – Chen Junjie (陈俊杰)

After all the whole Cultural Revolution was provoked by this historical drama. It premiered in Beijing with the cast of Ma Lianliang, Qiu Shengrong and Li Duokui, and was a new attempt on Beijing Opera’s scene at those times.

Chen Junjie’s blog. Not updated since Red Cliff but has some great photos!

9. 《刺王僚》Ca Wang Liao (Stabbing Wang Liao) – Tang Yuancai (唐元才)

Plum Blossom winner (1997) Tang Yuancai has built-in jingju eyebrows. ^^

10. 《杨门女将》Yangmen Nü Jiang (Female Generals of the Yang Family) – Dong Yuanyuan (董圆圆)

Another Plum winner (2001) I’m somewhat biased towards. Dong Yuanyuan’s voice has some strange flavor I like a lot.

11. 《坐寨》Zuo Zhai (Sitting in the Camp) – Qiu Jirong (裘继戎)

12. 《将相和》Jiang Xiang He (The General and The Minister Get Reconciled) – Song Changlin (宋昌林)

And another Plummie winner (2002) from Shandong. I especially liked that he came with an excerpt that has some spoken lines. (And he wears tie clips. ;P)
One of Song Changlin’s instructors in his rookie years was also above mentioned Fang Rongxiang.

13.《周仁献嫂》Zhou Ren Xian Sao (Zhou Ren Offering His Brother’s Son) – Li Hongtu (李宏图)

Head of Mei Lanfang Troupe, Plum winner Li Hongtu doesn’t really need to be introduced. Sound emerges from him so naturally and, may I say, softly. Possibly the most Western ear friendly xiaosheng performer nowadays. Purrfect!
You can read the heart-wrenching story of Zhou Ren here.


Li Hongtu’s accompanist, Zhao Xu (赵旭)
Photo: jingju.net

14. 《铡美案》Zha Mei An (Legal Case of Chen Shimei) – Su Kun (苏坤)

Imposing entrant from a first-class artist of Harbin Beijing Opera Theater.

15. 《锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – Chi Xiaoqiu (迟小秋)

I agree with Bertrand:

There is only one real unicorn tamer in China.

Being a Cheng school artist during the reign of Zhang Huoding is certainly not as easy as pie, even for a first-class performer who earned the Plum Blossom Award in its second season and leading the Youth Troupe of Beijing’s Peking Opera Theater.

16. 《探皇陵》Tan Huang Ling (Exploring the Emperor’s Tomb) – Yang Yanyi (杨燕毅)

Another disciple of Fang Rongxiang.

17.《文昭关》Wenzhao Guan (The Zhao Pass) – Du Zhenjie (杜镇杰)

Besides a Plum Blossom in 2005, Du Zhenjie harvested numerous other prizes as just reward. When entering the Peking Opera Theater of Beijing in 1986, he got constant support and directions from Ma Lianliang’s adopted son, Ma Changli (马长礼). Ma Changli was a very hardworking student of Yang school, later he became a disciple of Tan Fuying, also got guidance from the amazing Li Shaochun (李少春), and his foster father of course.
Du Zhenjie scored a very desirable father-in-law when married Ma’s daughter.


Ma Changli as Chen Shimei

18.《锁五龙》Suo Wu Long (Subduing Five Dragons); 《断密涧》Duan Mi Jian – An Ping (安平)

I go with the audience at 1:49:32.
I found a few words in an article to the second, for me totally unfamiliar opera this excerpt was from:

“This performance is said to be very difficult as actor have to master the comprehensive set of stage techniques such as singing, reciting, dance-acting and acrobatics very well. Furthermore, it is a high-pitched drama that requires actors to have a very good voice.

The play centers on rebel leader Li Mi who led rebellions against Emperor Yang of Sui in 613 and expected to establish a new dynasty but failed. He then fled to Tang Dynasty territory and submitted to Emperor Gaozu – Li Yuan with another rebel leader Wang Bodang. But the two subsequently rebelled against Tang and try to revive his army. They were finally captured and executed by Tang at Duanmijian.”

Source: CRIEnglish.com

19.《西厢记》Xi Xiang Ji (Romance of the West Chamber) – Wang Rongrong (王蓉蓉)

20.《审潘洪》Shen Pan Hong (Case of Pan Hong); 《盗御马》Dao Yu Ma (Stealing the Imperial Horse) – Deng Muwei (邓沐玮)

Same high niveau we are accustomed to.

21.《打龙袍》Da Longpao (Beating the Emperor’s Robe) – Li Mingyan (李鸣岩)

Considering her age and the reactions of the audience I made a bet with myself that Li Mingyan might be a disciple of Li Duokui and I won. She graduated from the very first class of The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, and works as laodan and laosheng.
The audience is in a smaller ecstasy after this performance, hardly letting Zhang Zhe to speak. Thus she quickly announces Meng Guanglu, causing the audience to cheer even more.

22.《探阴山》Tan Yinshan  (Visiting Yin Mountain),《奇袭白虎团》Qixi Baihu Tuan (Raid on the White Tiger Regiment)  – Meng Guanglu (孟广禄)

The usual concert pieces of double Plum Blossom winner (1995, 2009) Meng Guanglu, a very friendly performer of Tianjin’s Youth Beijing Opera Troupe.

23.《罗成叫关》Luo Cheng Jiao Guan (Luo Cheng at the City Gate),《辕门射戟》Yuanmen She Ji (The Magic Arrow Shot) – Ye Shaolan (叶少兰)

Almost 70, still on stage, still teaching, and still singing well. I can’t resist to paste my favorite snapshot here, hinting at Mr. Ye’s immeasurable contribution to Beijing Opera’s xiaosheng role, with all his best of the best disciples lined up so neatly:


(left to right) Bao Fei, Song Xiaochuan, Ye Shaolan, Li Hongtu, Jin Xiquan


A younger edition costumed Ye Shaolan as Luo Cheng, crying at the city gate

24.《杜鹃山》Dujuan Shan (Cuckoo Mountain);《赤桑镇》Chisangzhen (Red Mulberry Town) (with Li Mingyan) – Qiu Yun (裘芸)

Daughter of Qiu Shengrong isn’t a professional Beijing Opera performer. She was the first female hualian I heard ever, and after all she inspired me to find out more about Qiu Shengrong and the role in general. So, I love her.

And here the concert ends. I hope you had fun. ^^

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