(Updated 2013-04-23 to fix broken links)
A Distinguished Gathering

Here is a great video Fern sent me of a complete concert from last February in Shanghai: “A Distinguished Gathering: Beijing-Tianjin-Shanghai Joint Performance“, which was filmed at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on 2011-02-17.

It might be really hot here today, but it was cold in Shanghai during the concert. Fern spotted some very good photos of everyone at this concert:
Wang Peiyu and her musicians are in winter coats during rehearsals.

rehearsing in Shanghai

Wang Peiyu

Not only the rehearsals were cold, so was the concert. Check out the audience during the concert, they have their collars turned up!  (Especially the guy wearing yellow on the left, we’ll be checking in on him frequently during the video.)

winter coats

The MC, however, is brave enough to remain sleeveless. This is not HD, so you can’t see the goose-bumps.
sleveless MC

Francis, a salesman I work with, was actually in Shanghai at about the same time as this concert was filmed. Now, if there’s one thing a Canadian is used to, it’s the winter cold. Yet when I asked Francis about his trip in China, he admitted he froze his tail off the whole time. The reason: it’s not that cold in China, it’s just that nobody heats their cars or buildings to save money. Canadians heat their houses above 15 degrees at all times during winter, even if they leave the city for two weeks. Doing the opposite is not only cheap, it’s unhealthy. Wary Canadian home owners know humid buildings under 15 degrees Celsius can easily get infested with mildew that grow between wall partitions, giving off spores that attack the lungs and cause strong asthma and allergies. Cleaning such infestations are difficult to do, require professional services and ripping out walls, which can be much more costly than the savings won by not heating. An acquaintance of mine had the habit of never heating his Ottawa region home. Ten years later, his home is worthless, and can only be torn down.

Please lower the volume on your computer before beginning, sound is about as loud as the theatre was cold.

As usual, I’ll print Fern’s comments in italics with perhaps a comment from me here or there in [regular font]. Here is Fern with the cast and song list:

Yang Shaopeng

Yang Shaopeng (杨少彭) -Zhulian Zhai (Zhulian Fort)

Zhao Huan

Zhao Huan (赵欢) – Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse)

[ I am starting to know this opera fairly well! It’s starting to be like listening to “O mio babbino caro” sung by different sopranos (my favorite version is Renée Fleming’s). This is the first time I hear Zhao Huan. To my untrained ears, she does not hit the high notes with ease, and is a bit too quiet during at least one quieter moment. She also could look a bit more relaxed and assured. I guess it’s hard to picture everyone in the audience naked when it’s that cold and they’re all dressed in winter coats. ]

Tan Xiaoling

Tan Xiaoling (谭晓令) – Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother)

[This is the first time I see her. The audience responds well to her intro. Boisterous, a very strong voice, her style sounds almost violent to my ears! She’s a natural for Modern Beijing opera.]

Zhang Liyuan

Zhang Liyuan (张笠媛) – Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker)

[First time I hear Zhang Liyuan. Her voice is a little high, à la Li Shengsu, and she has excellent portamento. The passage at 18:40 is exceptional. This aria’s tempo could have been a bit slower for me, with more sustain on the final words of the sentences in certain passages. The accompanying instrument is also a little bit harsh and screechy. ]

Wang Peiyu

Wang Peiyu (王珮瑜) – Sou Gu Jiu Gu (The Story of the Orphan)

[Fern considers this actress a shooting star. I admit she has an excellent voice and regularly sings something I’d never heard before. Sound saturates a bit at 21:11, Wang Peiyu has a very dynamic voice, it can go from soft to very loud. ]

Xiong Mingxia

Xiong Mingxia (熊明霞) – Huo Xiaoyu

[I haven’t seen this singer before. A pretty voice, a pretty face, precise and fluid delivery. She must be terrific in full costume. ]

An Ping

An Ping (安平) – Zhaoshi Guer (The Zhao Orphan); Hei Xuanfeng Li Kui (Li Kui,
The Black Whirlwind)

[An Ping is hot this year, a Plum Blossom award in pocket. He is also featured in another concert here. A virile and masculine performer, no high pitched funny stuff going around here.]

Wang Runjing

Wang Runjing (王润菁) – Shi Wen Hui (Meeting by Poetry)

[Screechy jinghu! Wang Runjing starts this off like a siren alarm. I like the way she weaves around a note, an elegant delivery.]

Du Zhenjie

Du Zhenjie (杜镇杰) – Ganlu Si (Ganlu Temple)

[ A highly pleasing voice, with appropriate reverb. ]

Li Guojing

Li Guojing (李国静) – Xie Yaohuan

[ A truly windswept performance, Li Guojing could easily have sung this from the top of a cliff. I love the tremolo at 48:11 and 49:11 ]

Yuan Huiqin

Yuan Huiqin (袁慧琴) – Dui Huaqing (The Matching Spears)

[ A hardly recognisable out-of-costume Yuan Huiqin proves once again to be a force of nature at 52:00. She gets a roar of approval at the end of her song, prompting her to continue, hitting a truly spectacular note at 53:47.]

Jin Xichuan

Jin Xiquan (金喜全): Xiao Yan (Lü Bu and Diaochan – The Small Dinner)

[ Uncommonly good control of a very high-pitched voice. Holy cow! This is where male western audiences really hit a roadblock. Although I can tell Fern digged this, from her final comments at the end of this post. I’ll just limit myself to add that Jin Xiquan has Elvis-like eyebrow control. ]

Zhang Ke

Zhang Ke (张克) – Wenzhao Guan (The Zhao Pass)

Tang Yuancai Tang Yuancai (唐元才) – Tan Huang Ling (Exploring the Emperor’s Tomb)

[ A strong, solid presence and a great voice singing a very pleasant aria. Have we seen Tang Yuancai elsewhere? 1:15:58 is fantastic.]

Zhang Jianguo

Zhang Jianguo (张建国) – Kong Cheng Ji (Empty City Strategy)

Li Peihong

Li Peihong (李佩红) – Chun Gui Meng (Dream in a Girl’s Chamber)

[ Zhang Huoding repertoire, I can hardly listen to anyone else singing it. The audience strongly disagrees with me at 1:32:48.]

Meng Guanglu

Meng Guanglu (孟广禄) – Tan Yinshan (Visiting Yin Mountain); Qixi Baihu Tuan (Raid on the White Tiger Regiment)

I recently found this photo of Meng Guanglu applying make-up for a traditional role:

Meng Guanglu

[ Here he is singing from Yang Ban Xi, one of the 8 model works, although you couldn’t tell from his traditional approach. He is in really fine, fine voice too, I might add. And he grows on you. Note to myself: I should order a Meng Guanglu CD. Also a very interesting camera shot here of the percussionist in action. ]


[ He uses tiny drum sticks, I always thought they used woodblocks with very quick wrist action. ]

Shi Yihong

Shi Yihong (史依弘) – Mu Guiying Guashuai (Mu Guiying Takes Command)

[ For the past year or so, Shi Yihong is everywhere. Every opera she is in is peer-to-peered like crazy. She is the Beijing Opera “It girl” of the moment, it seems. No doubt she is worthy of this adulation. She has the voice and the moves. However! She surprises me, but she does not hypnotise me. 1:49:11 inspires respect but not unconditional surrender. Why is that? I can’t figure it out. ]

Chen Shaoyun

Chen Shaoyun (陈少云) – Da Yan Song (Beating Yan Song)

[ Fern likes this performer very much, but perhaps not for the same reasons she likes Jin Xiquan. ]

Yuan Huiqin, An Ping – Chisang Zhen (Red Mulberry Village)
Yes! Finally a Yuan-An version. Long live the Beijing-Shanghai cooperation!

[ An Ping is the Beijing Opera performer most likely to make a fortune from television commercials endorsing either after-shave or neck ties. He is such a guy. ]

Li Guojing, Yang Shaopeng – Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace)


Du Zhenjie, Shi Yihong, Meng Guanglu – Er Jin Gong (Entering the Palace for
the Second Time)

Audience gets the flower bouquets at the end. I surely would have broken a
few noses for Jin Xiquan’s one. [?]

Click here to download the video. File format is .MKV which can be played using VLC. File size is 603 MB.

All in all, it was really worth sitting in the cold. And getting your nose broken.