(originally published on: Jul 23, 2011)(Updated 2013-04-23 to fix broken links)
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 – Jiang Jie (Sister Jiang) (2003)
(There is a video of the complete “Sister Jiang” opera starring Zhang Huoding here).
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 – 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, 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 – 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 – Huaihe Ying (Camp at Huai River) (1999)
Sun Wei (Shanghai Chinese Opera Academy) – Sanjia Dian (Sanjia Inn) (2001)
Xu Ying (National Chinese Opera Academy) Wenzhao Guan (The Zhao Pass) (2001)
Wan Lin (Tianjin Chinese Opera Academy) – Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother) (2001)
Wang Zi (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy) – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain)
Yuan Huiqin – Yangmen Nü Jiang (Female Generals of the Yang Family) (2001)
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, 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 – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain)
Tan Fuying’s descendants.
(Nice Chinese mandolin. Trio singing together is definitely not Verdi.)
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, 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).
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 – 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.)
Zhao Jianhua – Chenlian (Morning excercise) (jinghu solo)
(The jinghu solo segues into an acrobatics segment performed by children.)
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 (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, female hualian, 11 yrs) – Suo Wu Long (Meeting Death with Ease) (2002)
Wow. A little girl.
Yu Yang (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, laosheng, 11 yrs) – Silang Visits His Mother (2002)
Wang Yu (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, laosheng, 10 yrs) – Dingjun Shan (Dingjun Mountain) (2002)
Wang Wenduan (Beijing Chinese Opera Academy, female laosheng, 9 yrs) – Yuanmen Zhan Zi (Beheading the Son At the Camp’s Gate) (2002)
Shi Min (Shi Yihong) – Xi Shi (2002)
(Perfect time to sip a cup of jasmine tea.)
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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – Yao Qi (2004)
Diao Li, Song Xiaochuan – Feng Huan Chao (Return of the Phoenix to the Nest) (2004)
Young Xiaochuan (left), gained some weight since then, hehe:
(Song is actually lean and mean in this clip, he’s plumper these days. As they say in Hungarian, “Trr-rrragédia”. )
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.