Archive for April, 2012

Head dress collection

I recommend this nice video on Youtube in Chinese with English subtitles.

I learned what the crescent means on Judge Bao’s forehead, saw some impressive handkerchief waving and of course, got to see some monkeying around by the king.

Zhao Fangyuan 赵芳媛


Fern has decided to widen my horizons. In our most recent exchange of files via regular post, she sent me 14 half hour shows featuring different new female Beijing Opera performers. And not just Cheng school, either.

Let me say from the onset, there is a lot of talent in China! Several of these performers are acrobatic, a couple specialize in “old woman” roles, one in “vivacious female assistant” roles. All are extraordinary in their own way and worth talking about individually. I’m going to have a lot of fun going through all of these.

The first among these performers I would like to talk about is Zhao Fangyuan (赵芳媛), a Zhang school performer with a splendid voice and striking features.

What a smile! Let’s be honest, if there’s a heaven, Zhao Fangyuan is serving dim sum there in full qingyi costume. Whew! More fried octopus tentacles, please.

“Don’t eat so fast, Bertrand. We have lots more…” (translated from daydreamed Mandarin)

But getting back to her music, Fern posted one concert where she gets to sing a song here and another one here. Zhao Fangyuan wasn’t as memorable in those as she is here, I think.

Fern commented a while back on how thin she looks. Very hard to tell from this video (you know how they wear football shoulder pads under their costumes to fool us), but sure enough some googling images bears this out.

Zhao Fangyuan

So, hopefully Zhao Fangyuan will discover a dessert she really likes.

Meanwhile, click here to download the video

And enjoy the tentacles, they are delicious!

Pandas in the snow

Fern and I have exchanged panda videos and images once in a while, but this one Fern sent me is so great!

They deserve a new category.

Ready for some superhuman acrobatic action? The most spectacular combination of somersaults, flips and splits imaginable? Wudan and wusheng performers who can even sing? Fantastic costumes and props?

I liked this very recent performance so much that I felt the urge to post it immediately. Li Guang surprised the Beijing audience with a quality production again, guiding the recent graduates of NACTA’s fifth class of outstanding Beijing Opera performers throughout the rehearsals and staging of an entertaining, yet hard to perform play.

京剧《八仙过海》Ba Xian Guo Hai (The Eight Immortals Cross the Ocean)

Click here to download the video.

Length: 55:03 File size: 377MB, 480×360 Extension: MP4
2012-04-22, Chang’an Grand Theater


Carp Fairy: Feng Yun (冯蕴)
Lü Dongbin (sword): Wang Lu (王璐)
Zhongli Quan (palm-leaf fan): Zhang Yandong (张艳栋)
Tieguai Li (iron crutch, hulu bottle): Bi Jiawang (毕佳旺)
Han Xiang Zi (flute): Zhu Lingyu (朱凌宇)
Lan Caihe (flower basket): Wang Daxing (王大兴)
He Xiangu (lotus leaf): Liu Qi (刘琪)
Cao Guojiu (jade tablet, castanets): Tan Yuan (谈元)
Zhang Guo Lao (fish-drum): Sha Hao (沙浩)

(In the video Zhu Lingyu and Wang Daxing are mixed up. The cast list above is the correct one.)

Too bad that many boys and girls on stage remained uncredited, some faces are familiar from the crustacean army, but I’m not sure.


The story isn’t too complicated: a jolly pack of boozy Daoist Immortals meet in the Penglai Pavilion, and decide to have some maritime fun. Each of them uses his special skill to cross the ocean. This article gives a nice description of the items that serve as unique attributes of the Immortals.

Zhongli Quan, Iron-Crutch Li, Cao Guojiu, Elder Zhang Guo, Philosopher Han Xiang

Zhongli Quan tosses his big fan into the sea, lies down on it and the Immortals drift away on the makeshift boat. He Xiangu drops her lotus flower into the water, and suddenly red light appears. One after another, everyone casts an item and they “sail” away to the East.

Actually, I think they like each other…

However, their trip causes disturbance in the palace of the Dragon King, who sends out his army of shrimp soldiers and crab generals. The conflict just gets worse as they talk, a fight starts and the Carp Fairy takes away Lan Caihe’s little basket.

“Wave Goodbye to your property!”

After a long fight, the Carp Fairy gives the basket back when Lü Dongbin asks for it nicely. Hurray!

The last ten minutes are just crazy!

The best part of all posts: pictures!

Teacher Li Guang contributes to the cheerful mood of the rehearsals.

Immortals in training clothes.

Immortals in costume.

Wang Lu as Lü Dongbin.

Fairy Feng.

Wang Daxing with magical flower basket. Be still my beating heart.

Spear-kicking extravaganza – it’s a pity this excellent team made three little mistakes.

Those nasty spears tricked Feng Yun a few times, but all in all, this performance was very likable.
Bravo guys and girls!

Photos are courtesy of 鱼人捷, bluemirage戏剧像素初七在这儿呢.

Lü Yang

Hard to say. Fern is bound to email me more bad news.


Here is a nice MP3 of her singing an aria from the Unicorn Purse.


Zhao Huan and husband Wang Xilong (wusheng)

My current crush, Zhao Huan, and her brand new husband Wang Xilong from just a few days ago. Thank you to Fern for the photo which came from here. Fern adds that Wang Xilong is a wusheng Beijing Opera singer as well.

This might never  have happened had I been in China!!!


Oh well, congratulations to the new couple! Many more operas, please.

Zhang Huoding


The pelting rain outside has turned to snow, but that’s all right because here is Zhang Huoding in “Autumn”, a CCTV performance from a few years ago.

The title of the original file is 《秋江》张火丁  张春华  CCTV.mkv



I found the download link at:

By googling for “张火丁 mkv”.

Fern and I have all the files listed there already, mostly in RMVB format. The .mkv files on that site look identical to, and are no doubt the same RMVB files converted to another format.

However this file is one I had not seen before. The video quality is a less than great (blown up from a smaller size?) and audio has a slight hum but is very good. The ending is missing a minute or two.

Otherwise, it’s Zhang Huoding in tremendous and very precise voice in a play that has a boat scene a lot like the White Snake.

A splendid way to spend 28 minutes.

File size is 332 MB.

Click here to download


Lü Yang


Today a video of Cheng School opera scene highlights featuring lots of Lü Yang.

Three hours worth! Too much of a good thing? Probably! But hey, it’s pouring freezing rain outside. “Quelle peste, ce temps!

Original file name was:

According to the Fern Guide, the operas are:

– Empress He Accuses the Usurper (Lü Yang, Chang Dong)
– The Story of the Orphan (Ling Ke, Wang Jiaqing, Wei Yigang)
– Dream in a Girl’s Chamber (Lü Yang, Jiao Pengfei)
– White Water Beach (Wang Daxing, Bai Xianglong, Han Yansong)
– The Wujia Slope (Wang Ping, Lü Yang)

Video is very watchable and the file size is a friendly 891 MB mkv playable with VLC.

Click here to download

Hey, I’m enjoying it. You will too.

First session ended, students of the specialized class at The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts graduated recently.

This kind of class, offering training with strong focus on different schools of Beijing Opera, started for the first time in 2010 May. Students and performers of CNPOC, NACTA, and the jingju troupes of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin got throughout postgraduate education in the fields of 19 different Beijing Opera schools.

From yesterday’s great closing concert I would like to share the “Cheng school block” – Guo Wei and Lü Yang sang two excerpts, from Da Deng Dian (The Great Enthronement) and Chun Gui Meng (Dream in a Girl’s Chamber), respectively.

Click here the download the video. (115MB, 9min, mp4)

En… I mean, have fun watching! 😉

Fu Xiru as Hamlet

I’ve been meaning to post this for two weeks, but I am a bit scatter-brained these days. Too much Easter chocolate! Too much dessert!

Today we have a video of the Beijing Opera version of Hamlet starring Fu Xiru (傅希如) and Zhao Huan (赵欢) as Hamlet and Ophelia respectively. I posted an excerpt from this opera shot from the audience recently, this time this is a TV production shot in Shanghai. A very interesting hybrid jingju opera leaning resolutely toward the traditional but with fun elements thrown in.

I guess this is the production Fern missed in Edinburgh, titled as “The Revenge of Prince Zidan”.

This is not the first Asian twist of Hamlet, according to wikipedia the play was adapted kabuki-style and presented in Japan over a century ago.

Fu Xiru is a favourite of Fern’s and she has blogged often about him. This was the first time I really discovered him. I thought he was just a local media darling who was a bit of a foolish trickster, but he is in fact a first-class actor who performs back breaking physical stunts at the drop of a hat. He is not as high pitched as Jin Xiquan, but he is charismatic with a good voice and is spectacularly acrobatic. Here he is holding his leg up:

Fu Xiru

Here he is crouching AND holding his leg up:

Fu Xiru

I tried this myself today in my living room… NOT! Saying he is “supple” is almost ridiculous in this context. Somersaults, sidestepping over long distances on one foot James Brown style, spectacular crashes to the floor, Fu can do! He will play Hamlet with quite a lot of swagger and arrogance. He barks at other actors often.

The opera opens with the cemetery scene where the ghost of Hamlet’s father will reveal to him that he was murdered. A bit confusing here: there are two painted faces, making it hard to figure out who was the ghost of the father. This one is “prince of the netherworld”:


And this is Hamlet’s dead father returned as a ghost:


Needless to say, my eyes were on Zhao Huan, the Cheng school marvel, wondering whether her part and her material would be memorable. Unfortunately in this opera, she is a secondary player and sings only briefly in Part One.

Zhao Huan

Her opening aria at 40 minutes is a bit marred by successive video glitches, but she displays noticeably good control between 41:00 and 42:00. The duet that follows is quite atypical for a Beijing opera. Normally everyone takes turns singing, they do not sing together. Fu Xiru’s microphone is a bit louder than hers at the onset.

Hamlet rails in anger, Ophelia loves him regardless. His shouting and pushing Ophelia down to the floor is also “definitely not Beijing Opera”. Still, the scene is very well acted and interesting to watch.

Follows the preparation for the “play within a play”, where Hamlet asks actors to re-enact in court as “fiction” an assassination identical to his father’s in order to see his uncle’s reaction. Part one of the video ends rather abruptly.

Part Two shows the play within the play, admirable in the way its actors imitate marionettes on a string, a wonderful find and a superb analogy. Naturally the new king flees in dread at the sight of his re-enacted crime.

There are a couple of odd moments. One that struck me was Hamlet hovering behind his uncle with sword raised, hesitating to do him in.

The queen gets a lengthy Mei style aria at around 15:00 in, followed by a confrontation with her son where he pretty much spits every word at her. The dwarf is done in. Hamlet talks to his father’s ghost and his mother thinks him mad. It’s a tragedy!

Ophelia returns to pick flowers, now mad with grief. Zhao Huan sings a beautiful acapella number that is all too brief. Follows the introduction of the henchman (Laertes) who is hired by the king to assassinate Hamlet, and Ophelia sings her farewell aria, Zhao Huan’s finest moment in this opera. At 37:27, she matter-of-factly does a neat trick of folding her water sleeve by whipping it up and stabbing into it.

Fu Xiru sings extremely well in turn and the gravedigger scene scene follows. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.

Fu Xiru

Ophelia’s funeral procession arrives. She has drowned in mysterious circumstances. Queen Gertrude sprinkles flowers on her. “Sweets to the sweet. Farewell!

Fern looked over my shoulder as I was slowly piecing this post together, reminding me that the rest of the cast for this play was:

Guo Ruiyue 郭睿玥 as Hamlet’s mom,

Chen Yu 陈宇 as the evil uncle (Claudius),

Yan Qinggu 严庆谷 as the dwarf (Polonius),

Liu Dake 刘大可 plays Pan Guan, the underworld judge (both Fern and I thought he was great),

Geng Lu 耿露 (who is a girl!) plays the ghost daddy (photo below):

Geng lu

I found this play very visual, with interesting sets, lighting and fog effects. Like I said it is experimental, quite  a bit western in feel at certain moments, and should be viewed as such. The story was a bit too familiar, which I think was a bit of a drawback. I find I am fascinated by Chinese Opera thinking and stories, and of course here we followed Shakespeare’s logic like a train on rails.

The volume on these videos is loud, be careful to lower it on your computer before starting. Overall sound and video are very good, except when there is fast movement, causing the video to blur a bit. The video also has occasional splicing glitches, but we’ve seen worse. Anyhow, if and when a better copy comes along, we’ll post it.


Click here to download Hamlet part 1

Click here to download Hamlet part 2

And (patent pending), enjoy!