Modern Opera

Zhang Huoding


I am pretty sure Fern sent me this clip before, but I came across it again and I think this one is a nicer copy of the video. Here is a nine minute clip of a younger Zhang Huoding singing an aria from the red Beijing Opera 北国红菇娘》– Red Chinese lantern of the North  (thank you Fern!), performed about a dozen years ago is my guess. Volume is loud, please lower the levels of your headphones before watching this.

Click here to download the video

My take on it is that CCTV-11 have improved their web site, and I have been finding fun things at too.



Zhang Yaxin- Song of the Yimeng Mountain

From January 26 to February 23, the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto will be exhibiting Zhang Yaxin’s Model Opera. This is the first North American exhibition of Yaxin’s images of the eight model operas commissioned during the time of China’s Cultural Revolution. Reflecting the ideology of this period, these operas were made into films and television shows that were widely distributed, as were Yaxin’s still images of the operas. This exhibition offers the chance to better understand this time of history and to grasp the extensive influence of model operas on the Chinese culture of that era.

Thanks to Guy at Photo Life for this!

Hello Chinese Opera lovers!

I noticed only a few days ago that audience favorite YouTube channel “chinesecivilization” has been terminated. Chinesecivilization2 is still rolling, but not all videos from the first channel were re-uploaded.

A year or so ago I downloaded the 2010 Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala in several parts from the above mentioned channel. To save them for the future, hereby I re-post a few of these high quality video clips.

All are very pleasant, popular excerpts, introducing China’s national essence in a vivid and fun way. I think all visitors will appreciate a little fun! Beware, Yu Wenhua’s version of Hua Mulan’s feminist song is a real ear-worm!

京剧《文姬归汉》Beijing Opera Wenji Returns to her Homeland – Li Haiyan (李海燕), Zhang Bing (张兵)

豫剧《花木兰》Henan Opera Hua Mulan – Yu Wenhua (于文华)

现代京剧《飘逸的红纱巾》Modern Beijing Opera The Flowing Red Scarf – Li Jie (李洁)

评剧《寄印传奇》Pingju The Legend of a Seal – Zeng Zhaojuan (曾昭娟)

京剧《钓金龟》Beijing Opera Golden Tortoise Fishing – Li Hong (李宏), Zhai Mo (翟墨)

昆曲《牡丹亭·惊梦》Kunqu Peony Pavilion·Awaken from a Dream – Fu Yandong (傅炎东), Wei Chunrong (魏春荣), Chen Lin (陈琳)

京剧《游龙戏凤》Beijing Opera Emperor Zhengde Teases Li Fengjie – Wei Haimin (魏海敏), Li Baochun (李宝春)

粤剧《夜会》Cantonese Opera A Night Meeting – Li Shuqin/Lei Suk-kan (李淑勤), Ji Huasheng/Gwai Waa-sing (季华升), Yang Yan/Joeng Ngaan (杨雁)
(I wasn’t sure how these performers from Guangdong transliterate their names, so I added the Cantonese version as well.)

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?


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)


I have the chills and I’m dragging my heels today, I think my eight year-old has shared his cold virus with me.

I try to find reasons to be cheerful when I feel lousy. There is a scene in Woody Allen’s movie masterpiece, Manhattan, where he recites his list of reasons for living. I have such a list in the back of my mind somewhere. And on it most certainly is finding out what Zhang Huoding will perform next. Few things cheer me up like Zhang Huoding performing.

Fern found the two following files, for which I am very grateful. First a PDF called “One Half Water, One Half Flame” in both English and Chinese, which provides a nice overview of Zhang Huoding’s career. Click here to download it.


Next, a high quality 2 minute video of a television performanceby Zhang Huoding of an aria from the red-themed opera Sister Jiang. Click here to download the video, which is a .VOB extension playable in VLC. File size is 149 MB.

Zhang Huoding

Enjoy! [and keep them coming Fern! 😉 ]

On the Docks

Two years ago, my friend Zach purchased a few DVDs for me in China of the movie versions of the 8 Model Works, which are red-themed Modern Beijing Operas. During the cultural revolution in China, there was a time where traditional Beijing Opera was banned in China and only 8 Yang Ban Xi operas were officially sanctioned by the state. These operas were created from scratch using the finest talent available at the time, conveying overtly the party line.

To my personal taste, the YangBan Xi opera movies are artistically uneven. This is mostly because I strongly dislike western ballet in my jingju. I don’t know much about ballet, but I do know for an indisputable fact I find it very boring.

My favourite DVD in the lot, pictured above, is the really dynamic Hai Gang (On the Docks) which is set on Hainan Island.

Artistically, it compares quite favourably in my opinion with the very best Gene Kelly musicals of about the same era. It has high production values, the performances are crisp. It is a cinematic treasure, capturing a moment.

Technically is another matter, the “On the Docks” DVD I own is nowhere close to “Singing In the Rain”. In fact, the DVD quality of Hai Gang is so bad I would venture to say it should be banned from sale in China! How bad is it? Let’s compare picture quality. Same computer, same player.

Here is the digitally restored Singing In The Rain DVD featuring Gene Kelly (click on image for full size):

Singing In The Rain DVD

Singing In The Rain DVD

Here is the Hai Gang DVD:

On The Docks DVD

On The Docks DVD

In fact, I cheated to improve the image by altering the height because it is badly skewed, probably due to a mastering mistake in vertical versus horizontal resolution. Notice the line at the bottom of the screen. Overall, this looks like it was shot using a video camera from a projected half-decent 16mm print.

Let me be the first to say it: it’s now time to digitally restore Yang Ban Xi!




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

Shi Yihong


The tropical heat and humidity has followed us all the way home to Quebec City from our vacation in Florida, a rare occurrence, and I find myself writing this post melting in my seat. Tomorrow we are set for rain, and the temperature should drop back down about 10 degrees. Hopefully!

Before leaving on vacation, I found this nice two hour long video while doing hard drive backups with performances from all the top names in Beijing Opera. Fern, who has a terrific blog herself, identified all the artists and songs. It’s great to have Fern helping me out.

You can download the video here. The file format is .RMVB and can be viewed using VLC. File size is 693 MB.

So here is Fern’s cast and song list in italics, with myself adding some odd notes here and there in (regular font):

Zhang Huoding

Zhang Huoding – Jiang Jie (Sister Jiang) (2003)

(There is a video of the complete “Sister Jiang” opera starring Zhang Huoding here).

Shi Yihong

Shi Min (she’s Shi Yihong but here she comes with her former name) – Bawang Bie Ji (Farewell My Concubine) sword dance (2003)

(Shi Yihong is one of the main stars in the spectacular HD opera in three parts “Female Warriors of the Yang Family”.

I found this performance outstanding! Shi Yihong is so convincing in the handling of her swords. Looks so effortless even though there is a lifetime of training involved!

Unless you can read Chinese and know this artist changed her name, there is no way to identify her in the Farewell My Concubine make-up. Bravo Fern!

Also of note here: the nice rolling deep drum.)

Yan Xingpeng

Yan Xingpeng – Liuchu Qishan (Six campaigns from Mount Qi) (1999)
Wikipedia: Zhuge Liang’s Northern Expeditions – In popular history, they overlap with the “six campaigns from Mount Qi” which is inaccurate, since Zhuge Liang only launched his campaigns from Mount Qi twice. Seems Yan Xingpeng is frequently playing Zhuge Liang, 18th here:

(Aha! The TV microphone hidden under the beard is betrayed by a loud plosive.)

Ye Shaolan and Shang Changrong

Ye Shaolan, Shang Changrong – Fei Hu Shan (Flying Tiger Hill) (1999)
You can read the story here.
These two individuals are so good together.

(People not familiar with Beijing Opera should probably not start here, Ye Shaolan’s singing will sound very special to western ears. Question to Fern: is Shang Changrong playing the tiger?)

(update) Fern responded by finding this screen shot of the actual “tiger” in the opera:


Sun Yumin
Sun Yumin – The Tale of Huo Xiaoyu (1999)
Sun Yumin is direct disciple of Xun Huisheng, one of the “4 great dan actor”.

(The story: poet Li Yi 李益 (748 – 829) abandons his lover, the prostitute Huo Xiaoyu, in favour of an honourable marriage. Still madly in love with him, she is unable to greet her clients and falls into misery. She dies in despair in front of him during a banquet. Her ghost then haunts the young man, bringing the curse of jealousy on him. Li Yi’s wife, who comes from a good family, divorces him. His manic jealousy drives him insane and he marries repeatedly, in vain.

This excerpt has a couple of microphone glitches, I’m surprised it was kept by the producers.

Also of note: red is the color of marriage. Notice the intense performance. It’s madness, I tell you!)

Du Zhenjie

Du Zhenjie – Huaihe Ying (Camp at Huai River) (1999)

Sun Wei

Sun Wei (Shanghai Chinese Opera Academy) – Sanjia Dian (Sanjia Inn) (2001)

Xu Ying

Xu Ying (National Chinese Opera Academy) Wenzhao Guan (The Zhao Pass) (2001)

Wan Lin

Wan Lin (Tianjin Chinese Opera Academy) – Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother) (2001)

Wang Zi

Wang Zi (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy) – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain)

Yuan Huiqin

Yuan Huiqin – Yangmen Nü Jiang (Female Generals of the Yang Family) (2001)

Zhang Huoding

Zhang Huoding, Song Xiaochuan – Chun Gui Meng (Dream in a Girl’s Chamber)

(I keep repeating, Zhang Huoding is my favorite Beijing opera performer bar none, the video of this complete opera is here and one of our top picks is another breathtaking excerpt from this opera. I’m such a fan this excerpt alone is excuse enough to post the whole video, although I really have to admit this is not a particularly memorable clip).

Diao Li and Yu Kuizhi

Diao Li, Yu Kuizhi – Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace) (2001)
You can buy a CD of Diao Li here.

(I was fooled for a moment, I thought it was Li Shengsu, right up to the point where her voice cracks noticeably. And no, it wasn’t the microphone. I am shamed.

Yu is Yu. Simply the best at what he does.)

Tan Yuanshou, Tan Xiaoceng, Tan Zhengyan

Tan Yuanshou, Tan Xiaoceng, Tan Zhengyan – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain)
Tan Fuying’s descendants.

(Nice Chinese mandolin. Trio singing together is definitely not Verdi.)

Marriage material Li Haiyan

Li Shiji, Li Haiyan, Liu Guijuan – Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) (2001)

(The reference “top pick” video of the complete Unicorn Purse starring Zhang Huoding is here.

This is a typical “three different generations of singers” setup. I like Li Haiyan here — I’m so predictable, sigh. )

Li Haiyan

Li Haiyan, Liu Guijuan – Concubine Meifei (2001)
The Emperor drops Guifei for Meifei on that notorious night in Drunken Concubine.

(Li Haiyan sings here briefly with her characteristic deep rich voice and exquisite control).

judge and old woman

Zhao Baoxiu, Meng Guanglu – Chisang Zhen (Red Mulberry Village) (2001)
Hahaha, we just watched the exact same excerpt a few days ago with my man. He asked, “Why is the old woman beating the judge?” Bao Zheng is the first Beijing opera character he recognizes. Tremendous achievement!

(Tricked again, it took me a second look to make sure that wasn’t Yuan Huiqin. Let’s just blame it on the heat and leave it at that.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on Bao Zheng here; in Chinese fiction, Bao Zheng has become a sort of historical crime detective character).

Li Jie

Li Jie – Tiannü San Hua (Heavenly Goddess Scattering Flowers) (2002)

(It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

I checked Fern’s blog and didn’t find anything on this singer. She hits some nice high notes here.)

jinghu solo

Zhao Jianhua – Chenlian (Morning excercise) (jinghu solo)

(The jinghu solo segues into an acrobatics segment performed by children.)

Mu Yu

Mu Yu (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, laosheng, 13 yrs) – Huaihe Ying (Camp at Huai River) (2002)
I really liked this boy. His appearance so fits this role. (Edit: Meanwhile the grown up Mu Yu became one of my favorites.)

Lü Yisha

Lü Yisha (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, female hualian, 11 yrs) – Suo Wu Long (Meeting Death with Ease) (2002)
Wow. A little girl.

Yu Yang

Yu Yang (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, laosheng, 11 yrs) – Silang Visits His Mother (2002)

Wang Yu

Wang Yu (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, laosheng, 10 yrs) – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain) (2002)

Wang Wenduan

Wang Wenduan (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, female laosheng, 9 yrs) – Yuanmen Zhan Zi (Beheading the Son At the Camp’s Gate) (2002)

Shi Yihong

Shi Min (Shi Yihong) – Xi Shi (2002)

(Perfect time to sip a cup of jasmine tea.)

Zhang Huoding

Zhang Huoding – Da Deng Dian (The Great Enthronement) (2002)

(Collector instinct kicking in. “Must… find… a…video…of…this…complete…opera.” Zhang Huoding in an uncharacteristic role, her voice not in absolutely top form. Still, certainly one of the finest opera singers alive on the planet today.)

Yu Kuizhi

Yu Kuizhi – Zhuo Fang Cao (Capturing and Releasing Cao Cao) (2002)

(This costume looks like a cheap polyester costume shop deal. Why no embroidery? Yu does it honor in any case, he is terrific in the intro, garnering hand claps. He really shines at this kind of slower tempo aria, one can appreciate the reedy quality of his voice… The mind wanders and the body relaxes. Wonderful.)

Dong Yuanyuan

Dong Yuanyuan – Shang Wei (Mu Guiying Guashuai or “Mu Guiying Takes Command)
Dong Yuanyuan is my favourite Mei school actress.

(Fern is up on me, I don’t know this singer very well.)

Li Jun

Li Jun – Sha Qiao Jianbie (Farewell Dinner at Sandy Bridge) (2004)

(Li Jun has failed to hook me in so far. His red cape is hiding the nice embroidery on his costume.)

Deng Muwei

Deng Muwei – Yao Qi (2004)

Song Xiaochuan and Diao Li

Diao Li, Song Xiaochuan – Feng Huan Chao (Return of the Phoenix to the Nest) (2004)
Young Xiaochuan (left), gained some weight since then, hehe:
young Song Xiaochuan

(Song is actually lean and mean in this clip, he’s plumper these days. As they say in Hungarian, “Trr-rrragédia”. )

Geng Qichang

Geng Qichang – Er Tang She Zi (Sacrificing the Second Son) (2004)
Yang, Yu school laosheng, Li Weikang’s husband. One of the most appreciated figures of contemporary Bejing Opera.

That’s all, folks.


(originally published on: Apr 5, 2011)(Updated 2013-04-23 to fix broken links)

Zhang Huoding

I hesitated to post this opera for a long while. I’m generally not a fan of Chinese revolutionary opera music. I guess that makes me a purist, but I dislike in principle the use of violins, sound effects, electronic keyboards and other non-traditional Chinese instruments in Chinese opera. Not to mention western ballet sequences. Also, I prefer poetic and passionate arias, but “passionate” arias in revolutionary opera too often means the performer is clenching his fist and looking determined throughout the song…

However, there must always be an exception to every rule. “Sister Jiang” has my favorite singer bar none, Zhang Huoding, starring in it with the China National Peking Opera Company. And I currently have some bandwidth to spare. So here it is complete, in excellent sound and picture.

It should be noted this opera isn’t one of the “Eight Model Works”, it is more accurately a “red themed” Modern Chinese opera first written in 1964, before the Cultural Revolution. Among the arias in this opera are “Paean of the Red Plum Blossom” and “I Sacrificed My Youth for Communism” (reference here).

Click here to download the full-length opera (400 MB). The file format is .RMVB and can be viewed using VLC.

The story in brief (references here and here):

The opera is set in spring 1948, as the communists trounce the nationalists during the civil war. Communist agent Sister Jiang leads guerrilla attacks on the nationalists. After being betrayed by a turncoat, she is captured on her way to Huying Mountain, an area north of Sichuan. Facing severe torture, she refuses to collaborate and finally dies a glorious death. In her cell, she sews a red flag while awaiting execution in prison.

Zhang Huoding recorded a CD of this material. I feel very fortunate to have a copy, purchased online through (very good service, shipping what you would expect from China to Canada).

Zhang Huoding's "red themed" CD

Here is an MP3 of the first track off that CD.

CD song list

In a tight spot

acrobatics in "Sister Jiang"

in the dungeon

Bravo to the star!

Bravo to the cast!

According to this reference, the crew and cast for this production are:

Producer: Li Mu

Scriptwriter: Yan Su

Director: Xie Ping’an (specially invited)

Assistant director: Wang Defu

Art director: Wang Jinghua

Musical style designer: Wan Ruixing

Music designer: Zhang Jianmin, Zhu Shijie, Wu Sheng

Instrumentation: Zhu Shijie, Liu Qihan

Music executive: Li Jinping

Stage designer: He Lipei (specially invited)

Lighting designer: Zhou Zhengping (specially invited), Zhou Jiaxiang

Lighting assistant: Li Jingcheng

Costume designer: Fan Xiaohui, Peng Dinghuang

Fight choreographer: Wang Defu, Zhang Hongkui, Liu Haisheng

Midi producer: Hao Enze, Wang Qingrong, Qin Ying

Modeling designer: Ai Shuyun

Production manager: Zhou Jiaxiang, Lui Huijun


Sister Jiang Zhang Huoding

Shen Yangzhai Zhen Jianhua

The old woman with two guns Bi Yang

Fu Zhigao Wang Xudong

Peng Songtao Li Wenlin

Tang Guishan Lui Kunshan

Lan Hongshun Gu Qian

Wei Jibo Li Songnian

Hua Wei Zhang Huoqian

A villiager Jin Xing

Xiao Hua Lui Huimin

Chief of the police Guo Zhenlong

Sun Mingxia Zhu Ying

The peddler Zhao Zhiqiang
The newsboy Wang Yan
Fellow-sufferers Zhao Heng, Huang Xinqing
Chef Sun Shaodong

(update 2011-08)

This post was well received. Here are the original comments:


  1. If already in the mood, here’s a very short subbed something, hehe:
    Red Detachment of Women
    Seems they sing this song at each and every New Year’s Eve until present day. :)Comment by Fern — April 6, 2011 @ 4:28 am |Edit This
  2. Hello Fern,I actually have all of those movies on DVD, Zach picked them up for me in China last year. The ones I have are “digitally unrestored” by Hollywood standards, i.e. DVD sound and picture could be a lot better (update note: I am very generous here). However, the DVD of the movie “American in Paris” with Gene Kelly is currently also “unrestored” (just picked it up from Amazon). Same for “Anchors Aweigh”.Anyway, my favorite Yang Ban Xi movie is “On the Docks”, also Zach’s favorite. It has contagious cheerfulness, great sets, and a charismatic lead singer.These movies can be found on Youtube, in about the same picture and sound quality as the DVDs I own.

    Comment by admin — April 6, 2011 @ 6:37 am |Edit This

  3. I found a movie of On the Dock @tudou, with Li Lifang, Zhao Wenkui that has pretty sound and terrible video.
    Opening music with The Internationale brings up childhood memories. I still was a pioneer with red tie, badge and all. Kids who was born one year later than me already missed it. :)
    Previously I’ve seen parts from a stage version of the Tiger Mountain but I didn’t really like that one, though the lead singer was great.Comment by Fern — April 6, 2011 @ 8:16 am |Edit This
  4. Hello again,Fern’s MP4 clip of the “Red Detachment of Women” is actually a concert clip featuring Yu Kuizhi (12 MB). Cool!In an email last year, Zach told me the story of “The Red Detachment of Women” happened in his hometown, Hainan Island. When the former American president, Richard M. Nixon, visited China, this ballet was presented to him. Most of the music in this ballet is actually folk music from Hainan Island.The actual film can be found on Youtube, a decent copy too, uploaded by ChineseCivilization, who always has incredible HD videos.

    Part One is at:

    Part Two at:

    … you can find the rest on your own.

    If someone is interested in finding these movies on Youtube, here are some more titles:

    The East is Red

    The White-haired Girl (Bai Mao Nv)

    The Red Detachment of Women (Hong Se Niang Zi Jun)

    Taking the Mountain Tiger by Strategy (Zhi Qu Wei Hu Shan)
    … from which the Brian Eno masterpiece was named, of course.

    Shajiabang (Sha Jia Bang)

    On the Docks (Hai Gang)

    Sweeping the White Tiger Regiment (Qi Xi Bai Hu Tuan)

    The Legend of the Red Lantern

    Ode to the Dragon River (Long Jiang Song)

    The Mountain Cuckoo (Du Juan Shan)

    The War in Plain

    Comment by Bertrand — April 6, 2011 @ 8:46 pm |Edit This

  5. Hello !^^I will say to you : Thank you very much for all the Viedos from Chinese Opera to download.^^ My Father like Chinese Opera.I will to download *Sister Jiang*, but i can not downloading……?Thank you very much !

    Best regards


    Comment by Maika — April 8, 2011 @ 12:54 am |Edit This

  6. Hello Maika!I just tested the link for “Sister Jiang”, there is no problem with it. You can download the file.The easiest way is using Firefox, right-clicking on the link and doing “Save as…”Sometimes when you have too many windows open, the file save dialogue is hidden under other windows and is hard to find.

    Sometimes, there are some browser addons (plugins) which can cause trouble. The best way to test that is to download a copy of Firefox Portable, which installs on a USB stick instead of your computer. This can also help you try the new Firefox version without interfering with the version you have already installed. Give that a try:

    If that doesnt work, get in touch with me.


    Comment by admin — April 8, 2011 @ 6:46 am |Edit This

  7. Hello Bertrand !I don’t know, why i can’t downloading, but i have Firefox normal version, yesterday I tried several times and it does not work.But today I can now download without problems…^^Thanks for your help !



    Comment by Maika — April 9, 2011 @ 8:35 am |Edit This

  8. Hello,I’m glad to hear that.I wanted to make the comment that people who grew up hearing this music are clearly fond of it, as can be seen at the finale of this video, where the audience spontaneously sings along with the final anthem. They know it, it harkens back, and they’re enjoying it.In Hungary, Fern can drive out and visit Statue Park on a sunny day if she gets nostalgic.

    In movies, I can think of Wolfgang Becker in Germany who made a superb comedy called Goodbye Lenin which explores this nostalgia.

    Going further back, the theme of how “period” movies become cherished for reasons other than underlying message was central to the film Kiss of the Spider-Woman.

    Have a nice day everybody and enjoy!

    Comment by admin — April 9, 2011 @ 3:30 pm |Edit This