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. ^^