Entries tagged with “Yu Kuizhi”.

What a negligent person I am!

Almost a month ago, Bertrand uploaded a great (and big) video of Silang Visits His Mother, starring Shi Yihong and Li Jun, and since he knows I’m obsessed with Jin Xiquan and Xiong Mingxia (who also appear in this staging), he kindly gave me the privilege to make a post about it.

I usually keep things (that are related to my online presence) in mind, but this time I forgot about this very pleasant “duty”of mine.

The story of Yang Yanhui, or Yang Silang (lit. “fourth son”) is one of the most popular Beijing Operas, featured by exciting story, a variety of characters and earworm arias. A version with Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu in the leading role was already posted at operabeijing.com, and Bertrand’s friend Zach provided a straightforward description of the whole story.

There are only a few things I would like to add as curiosity.

Zach mentions Yang Yanhui changed his name to Muyi upon captured, to conceal his true identity. However, his new alias also hints at his family relations. The two characters that make the traditional compound for surname Yang (楊) are mu (木) and yi (易). Very clever, isn’t it? How tricky our Silang is.

The version posted earlier omitted one character from the play: Mrs. Silang. Yang Yanhui already had a wife at home who remained loyal to him for fifteen years, and now, after Silang’s short visit, they have to bid farewell again. I definitely don’t envy this character.

The most famous act of this play is undoubtedly Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace). Bertrand already posted a video with Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu singing the most appealing snippet from the famous duet of Yang Yanhui and Princess Tiejing, but you can never have enough Zuo Gong in your Beijing Opera blog.

In the following clip, the above mentioned duo is singing the same excerpt, just wearing stage costume. It’s a 2009 recording, and Yu Kuizhi seems unusually rested and well-fed this time. I added English subtitles to it with Aegisub, to ease my conscience. Believe me, stereo Yu is fun.

Download the Zuo Gong duet here.

And now to the main performance! You will meet many familiar faces, most of them already have a category, so don’t hesitate and click those links.

Hu Xuan, the young “old lady” of Shanghai Jingju Troupe was featured recently in a complete opera here, playing the role of a poor but noble spirited elderly woman. Now we can see her again as the mother of Yang Silang. I think she deserves a category too, what do you think? *pokes Bertrand*

Young Ma school laosheng Mu Yu, playing Yang Zongbao’s father in this play, also appeared here before, both as kid and as young adult. In the latter post you can also spot Zhu Hong (Jingju Theater of Beijing Youth Troupe), starring as Silang’s wife in this performance.

Shi Yihong and Li Jun are two excellent professionals, though not particularly exciting. Possibly I won’t stand alone with the opinion that performers in the supporting roles are a bit more interesting in this production.

《四郎探母》Silang Tan Mu (The Fourth Son Visits His Mother)

Click here to download the video.

Length: 2:53:06 File size: 1,46GB, 720×576 Extension: MKV
CCTV “Theater in the Air” live broadcast, 2011-04-16
Mei Lanfang Grand Theater, Beijing
 Personal favorite spot: 1:31:20-1:32:45

Yang Yanhui: Li Jun (李军)
Princess Tiejing: Shi Yihong (史依弘)
She Taijun: Hu Xuan (胡璇)
Empress Dowager Xiao: Xiong Mingxia (熊明霞)
Yang Yanzhao (Liulang):  Mu Yu (穆宇)
Yang Zongbao: Jin Xiquan (金喜全)
Silang’s wife: Zhu Hong (朱虹)
Brothers of the Liao Empress Dowager: Zhang Yongsheng (张永生), Mei Qingyang (梅庆羊)

The photos below, taken at this performance were borrowed from the CCTV Forums.

Compared to invisible horses and imitated boats, the prop symbolizing Silang and Tiejing’s infant is pretty realistic.
In order to get the jindalingjian (金大令箭), the big golden arrow banner of command, Princess Tiejing pinched the poor baby, and when he started to cry, the Princess said to the Empress Dowager that the infant wants to play with the arrow. The worrying royal grandmom immediately lent the lingjian to the little boy.
On the next picture, there are several other command arrows on Xiao Taihou’s table. The middle one is the “jackpot” Yang Yanhui is longing for. Besides the lingjians we can see a little packet, wrapped in yellow fabric. Despite appearances, it doesn’t contain the Empress Dowager’s lunchbox, but the seal of the commander-in-chief.

In Beijing Opera, all female characters of non-Han ethnicity wear accessories similar to Manchu court wear. The flowery “buns” on Xiao Taihou’s headdress strongly resemble the oversized wedding headpiece Empress Dowager Longyu is wearing on this picture:

Yang Zongbao is holding a lingqi (令旗), command banner to transmit orders.

Have fun watching!

(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”.
Reference: fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huo_Xiaoyu_zhuan

(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: Jun 25, 2011)

sullen violinists

Here is a complete two hour concert filmed at the Shanghai Tianchan Yifu Theater.

This is yet another file found by my long rainy weekend computer backup exercise. The following song list by Fern of megapoxy.net, who kindly helped me sort out the performers, and in absolute overnight record time too! I am humbled.

This is a very interesting concert as it uses a full western orchestra along with the traditional Chinese instruments. It’s quite a mix bag, as it features the best known Beijing Opera performers like Li Shengsu, Yu Kuizhi, Wang Rongrong and Meng Guanglu along with some newer faces.

Here is Fern in italics, with me jumping in once in a while.

Wang Peiyu, famous Yu school female laosheng

1.空城计 王珮瑜 Kong Cheng Ji (Empty City Strategy) – by the cross-dressing Wang Peiyu, famous Yu school female laosheng.
She just got her first Plum Blossom and I’m really happy about it.

(Bertrand) She had me fooled.

Shi Yihong

2.贵妃醉酒 史依弘 Guifei Zuijiu (The Drunken Concubine) – by Shi Yihong
(Bertrand) We just posted the incredible “Yangmen” with this performer.

Pei Yongjie

3.打严嵩 裴永杰 Da Yan Song (Beating Yan Song) – by Pei Yongjie
Pei Yongjie, Plum winner (2001) Qi school laosheng, hongsheng (red face), head of Jilin Beijing Opera Theatre.

Li Peihong

4.龙凤呈祥 李佩红 Long Feng Cheng Xiang (The Auspicious Dragon & Phoenix) – by Li Peihong
Li Peihong, daoma, huashan of Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe also got the Plum Blossom in 2001.
Here’s another song with her from the 2011 New Year show.

An Ping

5.黑旋风李逵 安平 Hei Xuanfeng Li Kui (Li Kui, The Black Whirlwind) – by An Ping
An Ping, first-class hualian of Shanghai Beijing Opera Theatre, got his first Plum Blossom this month and I’m really happy about this, too. 😀
A 2011 New Year’s video with him, singing excerpt from The Zhao Orphan here.
(Bertrand) Fern’s not the only one to really like An Ping, there are several noticeable roars of approval from the audience during this performer’s aria.

Wang Rongrong

6.状元媒 王蓉蓉 Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – by Wang Rongrong (who needs no introduction)

Li Jun

7.大唐贵妃 李军 Da Tang Guifei (Imperial Concubine of the Tang Dynasty) -by Li Jun
Li Jun, Yang school laosheng – his civil hairstyle is always leaving me stunned…
Here singing Wujia Po with Shi Yihong:
Excerpt from Ji Gu Ma Cao (Beating the Drum to Abuse Cao Cao):
Chen Shaoyun, An Ping and Li Jun all play a role in this opera:

(Bertrand) This is the part of the concert that for me is like a very lengthy drum solo during a rock show — “It’s time to get some snacks.”

Zhao Baoxiu

8.打龙袍 赵葆秀 Da Long Pao (Beating the Emperor’s Robe) – Zhao Baoxiu

(Bertrand jumping in again) Thank goodness someone to wake us up after Li Jun. Thank you, Zhao Baoxiu!

Zhang Ke

9.乌盆记 张克 Wu Pen Ji (Story of Black Basin) – Zhang Ke

(Bertrand ) A pleasing performer indeed.

Li Shengsu

10.西施 李胜素 Xi Shi – by Li Shengsu

(Bertrand) What a gorgeous gown! Have you ever seen anything so marvellous? No doubt this is from a Chinese designer, too. And Li Shengsu never wears a gown twice.

Meng Guanglu

11.探阴山 孟广禄 Tan Yinshan (Visiting Yin Mountain) – Meng Guanglu
I read the story to this opera previously, and finally the penny dropped that Zha Pan Guan (Beheading the Underworld Judge) you posted here:
http://operabeijing.com/?p=597 is based on this Qiu school classic with a few minor changes.

In Meng Guanglu’s words, who plays Bao Zheng in the new show, it’s “old thing with new taste”. This role is extremely hard, requires great singing skills. When Qiu Shengrong was singing this role, his fans were listening as if they were on drugs.

I wrote a summary earlier, here it is, maybe you want to add it:

The story is set during Song Renzong’s reign. At a cheerful Lantern festival a young woman, Liu Jinchan, is separated from her family in the crowd. Walking home alone, she encounters a scoundrel, Li Bao, who tries to rape her but fails. In the end he strangles the girl to death. To cover his tra cks, Li Bao moves the corpse to Yan Chasan’s doorway to frame him. The case isn’t investigated properly, Yan Chasan gets arrested and sentenced to death. He files an appeal to Bao Zheng, complaining about the injustice.

Because the circumstances of Liu Jinchan’s death are unclear, Bao Zheng descends into the underworld to ask the underworld judge, Pan Guan, to check the case in the register of life and death. Pan Guan’s book of death clearly indicates that the rapist and murderer was Yan Chasan.

Bao Zheng starts his own private investigation, going to the Yin Mountains to ask Liu Jinchan’s ghost about the truth. The ghost tells him that the real culprit was Li Bao, that Li Bao’s maternal uncle is Pan Guan and the corrupt judge altered the register of life and death without authority!

Bao Zheng gets furious about the fraud and orders Pan Guan to correct the book. Pan Guan doesn’t admit his fault, finally Bao Zheng gets angry and beheads him. Returning to the world of the living, he releases Yan Chasan and beheads Li Bao too.

(Bertrand) Lots of Meng Guanglu fans in this audience!

Xia Huihua

12.玉堂春 夏慧华 Yu Tangchun – Xia Huihua
Xia Huihua, first class Mei school qingyi from Shanghai, born in 1944.

(Bertrand) She has a good voice, too.

Chen Shaoyun

13.文天祥 陈少云 Wen Tianxiang – Chen Shaoyun
Five stars! Not enough applause!!!

(Bertrand) Fern was not pleased at all with the audience’s reaction to this performance here.

Southern opera, excerpt from one of Zhou Xinfang’s patriotic plays set during the Japanese invasion.

Li Bingshu

14.大登殿 李炳淑 Da Deng Dian (The Great Enthronement) – Li Bingshu
Same excerpt you just posted w/ Li Shengsu, great stuff for making comparisons.
Interesting about Li Bingshu is she’s singing in Mei style and also in Zhang
style simultaneously. Two of her teachers were Yan Huizhu and Wei Lianfang, both direct disciples of Mei Lanfang. Here’s a great photo of the latter w/ Mei Lanfang:

(Bertrand) She’s a dead ringer for my Hungarian mother. Mom! Is that you?!?

Yu Kuizhi

15.上天台 于魁智 Shangtian Tai (Ascending the Heavenly Altar) – Yu Kuizhi
Great aria to show off vocal skills. 🙂 What to add? Nice tie.

(Bertrand) Fern and I keep disagreeing on Yu’s neckties. This one I think would have been better a uniform blue rather than with a blue pattern. But both of us agree about Yu Kuizhi: his singing is finer than fine. I myself think he is the best at what he does.

Li Youwanyun

16.凤还巢 李尤婉云 Feng Huan Chao (Phoenix Returning to the Nest) – Li Youwanyun
(not really sure how to pinyin this name…)
She’s an amateur actress from Hong Kong.

Li Youwanyun, Yu Kuizhi

17.坐宫 于魁智/李尤婉云 Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace) – Li Youwanyun, Yu Kuizhi
A photo of this performance:
http://baike.baidu.com/image/8bc3a7018d5ade59728da502 Mr. Yu is looking very
solemn on this picture.

Yan Xingpeng

18.卧龙吊孝 言兴朋 Wolong Diaoxiao (Zhuge Liang’s Condolence Visit at Chai Sang’s Funeral) – by Yan Xingpeng
Yan Xingpeng’s grandfather, Yan Jupeng founded Yan school; his father, Yan
Shaopeng is also a Yan school laosheng and for a change, his mother, Zhang
Shaolou too. Bearded family.
He got Plum Blossom in 1990, same session as Yu Kuizhi.

(Bertrand) Very nice orchestra intro here.

Li Shehgsu and her master

19.霸王别姬 李胜素 Bawang Bie Ji (Farewell My Concubine) – by Li Shengsu
Mei Baojiu is surely proud of his disciple.

Thank you so much, Fern!

As usual, here are my own quick random notes:

This is such a pleasant-sounding concert, a real crowd pleaser on all counts.

Wang Rongrong is lovely but I found her singing a bit more shrill than usual. Is this her usual repertoire or an off night? I’m not sure.

I’m still amazed by Li Shengsu’s gown.

Click here to download the video. File format is .RMVB, viewable in VLC. File size is 449 MB.


(update 2011-08 here are the original comments for this post)


  1. So your mother has a secret life as Beijing opera actress? ;)Wang Peiyu fooled me for weeks. I watched the complete opera she’s singing this excerpt from and I thought her voice is different because she’s a very young boy. I even was showing my new finding to my fiance, telling him, “Look, this boy should be very young but he’s very good!” And this is her off-stage style too, I’ve seen photos of her while recording in studio and she was wearing men’s jeans and tartan patterned shirt.
    I realized she’s female only when I read her profile. ><If you don’t like this necktie of Yu Kuizhi, just wait until I post the old video I found, he’s wearing a terrible oh-so-80s suit.
    Poor man, I’m always ranting about his outfits, but really what else to criticise? His voice surely not.Wang Rongrong is frequently singing The Top Scholar, besides Riverside Pavilion, Romance of West Chamber and Meeting by Poetry, as typical Zhang school play.Li Shengsu never wears a gown twice? Now I HAVE TO find two performances with the same gown! ;P

    Comment by Fern — June 26, 2011 @ 1:32 am

  2. My Mom has a much stronger voice!Comment by bertrand — June 26, 2011 @ 9:03 am
  3. I lost a friendly bet with Fern, Li Shengsu wore that gown again in this amateur video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7n2rtHvckAComment by Bertrand — July 26, 2011 @ 8:38 am

(originally published on: Apr 17, 2011)

Opening procession of "Red Cliff"

For disk space reasons, I had to remove this opera from the web site about two months ago. Here it is again!

Here is a really big download for a complete and truly spectacular opera, “Red Cliff”, featuring Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu and directed by Zhang Jigang, the assistant chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.The video file format is .RMVB, 820 MB in size, and can be played with either VLC or the Open Source “Real Alternative”. The latter allows easier scrolling through the file but I find the image not as sharp, nor adjustable as on VLC so I am not recommending it.

Click here to download the video.

A word of warning: the audio on this file contains occasional “ticks” which sound like a scratchy old vinyl record at times. It seems to come from the source, as I have downloaded alternate copies of the very same opera in other formats that also have the same flaw. I got used to the ticks but you might find them annoying. Despite this drawback, the picture and sound of this video are superb, and a real testament to this artistic coup.

“Red Cliff” is thrilling hybrid. It’s a traditional Beijing Opera but with fully modern staging, lush sets, a cast of hundreds, smoke and lighting effects, cannons, and… and… a superb cast!

Red Cliff

An English description of this opera is given here, and I am reproducing it below in italics:

Grand New Epic Peking Opera: Red Cliff

Presenter: Peking Opera House of Beijing, Beijing Guolian Symphony Orchestra, etc
Production: National Centre for the Performing Arts
Coproduction: National Centre for the Performing Arts, Peking Opera House of Beijing
Venue: National Centre for the Performing Arts – Opera House
Dates: September 21 – 28, 2009 19:30
Lead Cast: Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guanglu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu, Zhang Jianfeng, Wang Yue, Wang Yan, etc.
Price: VIP 500 400 300 200 100 RMB
Programme IntroductionProducer: Chen Ping
Supervisor: Wang Yuzhen, Deng Yijiang
Playwright: Cai Fuchao
Chief Director: Zhang Jigang
Composer: Zhu Shaoyu
Stage Designer / Supervisor: Gao Guangjian
Executive Director: Shi Hongtu
The Battle of Red Cliff, a legendary battle over a thousand years ago, is an epic of fight among three states as well as magnificent heroic scenery. Last year, a Peking Opera representing the history of that battle was on the stage, showing the famous event happened over 1,800 years ago to today’s spectators.For the past 30 performances, the Peking Opera Red Cliff all played to the full house, showing the classical charm of Peking Opera and the quintessence of Chinese culture. With the theatre packed, it has been greatly received since its debut, causing a fad for Peking Opera, the quintessence of Chinese culture, with its great epic charm.

From September 21-28, this great epic Peking opera will return to the stage; 8 perfect performances will be contributed to the 60th anniversary of the foundation of People’s Republic of China.

Programme Introduction

Producer: Chen Ping

Supervisor: Wang Yuzhen, Deng Yijiang
Playwright: Cai Fuchao
Chief Director: Zhang Jigang
Composer: Zhu Shaoyu
Stage Designer / Supervisor: Gao Guangjian
Executive Director: Shi Hongtu

The Battle of Red Cliff, a legendary battle over a thousand years ago, is an epic of fight among three states as well as magnificent heroic scenery. Last year, a Peking Opera representing the history of that battle was on the stage, showing the famous event happened over 1,800 years ago to today’s spectators.

For the past 30 performances, the Peking Opera Red Cliff all played to the full house, showing the classical charm of Peking Opera and the quintessence of Chinese culture. With the theatre packed, it has been greatly received since its debut, causing a fad for Peking Opera, the quintessence of Chinese culture, with its great epic charm.

From September 21-28, this great epic Peking opera will return to the stage; 8 perfect performances will be contributed to the 60th anniversary of the foundation of People’s Republic of China.

The success of this play relies on a powerful lineup for the creation: it was adapted by Cai Fuchao, a famous playwriter; chiefly directed by Zhang Jigang, the assistant chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and executive chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008 Paralympics; Zhu Shaoyu, a famous composer with a variety of 40 compositions as well as Shi Hongtu and other well-known Peking Opera artists joined in this opera. Major performers are from Peking Opera House of Beijing. Zhang Jigang has directed many plays, such as A Handful of Sour Dates, and it was his first time to direct a Peking Opera; however, he succeeded in mixing the charm of dance and the appeal of Peking Opera and showing it perfectly on the stage.

The coming performances of Red Cliff will again be played by a lineup of prestigious artists and promising rising stars. Leading Peking Opera artists nowadays including Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guanglu, Li Hongtu and Li Shengsu will play in all 10 performances, and popular young artists who have given wonderful performances earlier on including Zhang Jianfeng and Wang Yan will bring artistic enjoyment to the spectators once more in their own ways.

“Respect tradition and dare to innovate” is the artistic idea upheld throughout the creation of Red Cliff. Different from other traditional operas, TV programs and films with the same subject, the new epic Peking Opera Red Cliff shows great innovation both in story line and characterization. Some major plots, such as “A Verbal Dispute with Some Idea-men for War”, “Borrowing Arrows by Scarecrow-soldiers on Boats” and “Battle of Red Cliff”, as well as heroes and Xiao Qiao are all performed in a new artistic expression. Just as what dramatist Xu Chengbei said after watching it, “This is a successful play, with beautiful lyrics and compact plots, representing original historical facts and showing a new image of Zhou Yu, meanwhile, Zhuge Liang gets off the “alter” and acts like a ordinary people, so it more caters to the taste of modern people. “

There is a slight difference from the traditional expression with “One table and two chairs”, Chief Director Zhang Jigang and Stage Designer Gao Guangjian made bold innovations and created several marvelous scenes, such as “Borrowing Arrows by Scarecrow-soldiers on Boats” and “Battle of Red Cliff”, all of which present a unique romantic appeal of Peking Opera. Meanwhile, by inheriting traditions, Costume Designer Song Li and Aria Designer Zhu Shaoyu have both made successful exploration in their fields respectively.

As a unique treasure in Chinese culture, Peking Opera has particular national value and aesthetic value. NCPA, a national for performing arts centre, has committed itself to promoting art treasures of our nation and carrying forward our traditional culture. The grand new epic Peking Opera Red Cliff has catered to the taste of youngsters by expressing the charm of Peking Opera in new forms, and thus opened a new era of Peking Opera.

Schedule Lead Cast
Sept. 21 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu
Sept. 22 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu
Sept. 23 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu
Sept. 24 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu
Sept. 25 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu
Sept. 26 19: 30 Zhang Jianfeng, Meng Guanglu, Li Hongtu, Wang Yan
Sept. 27 19: 30 Zhang Jianfeng, Wang Yue, Li Hongtu, Wang Yan
Sept. 28 19: 30 Yu Kuizhi, Meng Guang Lu, Li Hongtu, Li Shengsu

[source:National Centre for the Performing Arts]

This video was downloaded very slowly using aMule on Linux. aMule is an eMule client. The Google Translate service I use when surfing Chinese web sites translates “eMule” as “electric ass”, which I think would be a terrific name for a rock band.

Enjoy “Red Cliff” and see you next time !

(originally published on: May 4, 2010)

The title is “Go West” (literally “Going to the West Gate”) or “Zou Xi Kou” in Chinese.

This opera tells a story of a Shanxi businessman, who valued his business reputation and successfully expanded his business in Russia.
The story is as follows. Chang Yuqiao, a Shanxi businessman, receives a board with inscriptions saying “Gain Frame by Deceiving the Public” and a bottle of fake sesame oil. After discovering that the assistant manager (“vice manager”) of his shop cheated consumers, he fires that assistant manager, buys back the sesame oil sold from his shop at a high price, and then consignes all the oil to the flames.
He signs a contract with Russian businessmen and then sends a caravan to Russia. Unfortunately, his caravan is robbed by bandits and his men killed. In the most difficult time, he still decides to fulfill the order with the Russians.

Go West
Performed by Beijing Opera Troupe of Shanxi Province, Beijing Opera Troupe of China, Academy of Chinese Traditional Opera.
Executive Directors: Yang Bo, Cheng Baode. Executive Producers: Shen Weichen, Gao Jianmin

Producers: Wu Jiang, Du Changsheng, Dou Mingsheng

Featuring the magnificent Yu Kuizhi in the truly expressive role of the businessman.

LI Shehgsu playing ZHONG Xue’er

YUAN Huiqin playing the old lady

LIU Guijuan playing LIU Hanyu

This is the biggest file I have posted so far, but this is also the most lavish production I’ve posted as well. The costumes and sets are top notch, the video picture and sound are great. This is an .RMVB extension file playable in VLC, size is just under 700 MB.

I’m trying to discourage indexing spider programs from killing my blog’s bandwidth quota, so this time I’m going to get you to jump through a hoop in order to download the file. You’ll see, it’s pretty painless.

To download the video, click here.

That’s all, except, “Enjoy!”

Big time thank you once again to Zach for his translations and the sharing of his knowledge.

Zach also really surprised me with the following link which indicates this very opera is playing in Beijing in two days.

Wish I could be there!

Anyhow, I am reproducing the page above here in italics:

Peking Opera: Going to the West Gate
Presenter: Shanxi Peking Opera Theatre
Lead Cast: Yu Kuizhi, Li Shengsu, Yuan Huiqin, Liu Guijuan, Zhu Qiang, etc.
Venue: Theatre
Dates: May 06-08, 2010 19:30
Price: VIP 380 280 180 120 80 RMB

Programme Introduction
Taking the story of the Chang’s, a renowned Shanxi merchant family, as its background, the Peking Opera, Going to the West Gate, tells about the honest business operation and deeds of friendship and brotherhood of the Shanxi businessmen in the Qing Dynasty. The entire grand performance expresses the vast and profound integrity and moral principles and displays the essence and meaning of the Shanxi business culture with loud and sonorous singing full of passion. The cast, among others, of Yu Kuizhi, Li Sheng Su, Yuan Huiqin, Liu Guijuan and Zhu Qiang are also welcomed warmly by the audience.The music prototype of the opera Going to the West Gate is folk tune widely popular in Shaanxi, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and northern Hebei Province. Through the organic integration of Peking Opera and Shanxi folk music, the melody of Going to the West Gate is more mildly pleasant and more beautiful and the performance is more visually and artistically enjoyable.
At the end of the Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty, the General Manager of Jindeyu, Chang Yuqiao, who was resolved to open trade routes with Russia, went home to celebrate his mother’s birthday. Unexpectedly, someone sent a black tablet, on which was engraved with “phony”, and adulterated sesame oil during the birthday banquet. Taking integrity as important as his life, Chang Yuqiao, regardless of the family reunion, immediately returned to the Shacheng head office to find out what was behind the incident.

He resolutely drove out the Vice Manager, Shi Dunzi, who adulterated the commodities. Chang recovered the adulterated sesame oil at high price and burned all the oil in flames. In difficult times, Chang Yuqiao often called on Zhong Xue’er to give her insight into the whole situation. Having rich experience in doing business with Russia, Xue’er came up with plans and strategies, and braved to lead the camel team on their business journey to the North filled with sand.

Unexpectedly, they were confronted with bandits and robbers, and experienced injury and death on their way. But the delivery date signed with Russia was imminent. Faced with tense situation of shortage of funds, unstable shareholders, separated brothers, widespread rumors, the Shanxi merchants and their families spared courageously no effort to support the great cause of the business journey to the North.

The Shanxi people finally won people’s hearts with “sincerity” and “righteousness”. They reversed the situation and opened up the passage of trade with Russia, which promoted the signing of Kyakhta Treaty on Sino-Russian border trade by the Qing government and the Tsarist Russian government, leaving a glorious page in the history of China’s economic and trade development.

Shanxi Peking Opera Theatre
Shanxi Peking Opera Theatre was formerly known as the Tianjin Red Wind Peking Opera Troupe, and then moved to Shanxi in 1956 and renamed Taiyuan Peking Opera Troupe. It was renamed Peking Opera Troupe of Shanxi Province in 1968 and then expanded and renamed Shanxi Peking Opera Theatre in 1992.

From 1960s to 1980s, a large number of outstanding graduates from China’s traditional opera schools joined the troupe. Through great cooperation with the older generation of artists, they have gradually become the backbone for the development of Peking Opera in Shanxi. Ren Xiuyun, Cao fosheng, Chen Zhiqing and Zhao Kunxiang have been active in Shanxi stage for more than 30 years and enjoyed good fame in the ancient city .In 1990s, a new group of young artists joined the troupe and have make Shanxi exert significant influence on the nationwide development of Peking Opera. In 1996, headed by Li Shengsu, disciple of the Mei School, the Mei Lanfang Youth Peking Opera Ensemble was established, setting off a wave of revitalization of Shanxi Peking Opera.

The ensemble has enjoyed a long-standing reputation for “Performing Old Plays in New Ways and Always Performing New Plays”. Besides reviving the excellent traditional plays such as The Story of Su San, Jinyu Nu, Silang Visits His Mother and Farewell My Concubine etc, the ensemble has also concentrated on creating new plays. In 1981, the opera Chamber of Bliss, which depicts the famous revolutionary general Cai Er, participated in the commemoration performance of the 70th Anniversary of 1911 Revolution held in Nanjing. It rocked both Nanjing and Beijing, and won the Elite Award for Outstanding Plays. In 1992, the historical story drama Meng Lijun took part in the New National Youth Peking Opera Troupes (Teams) Selection Performance and won the Performance Award by the Ministry of Culture. In 1995 the newly adapted historical story drama Golden Dale Garden in Ruins took part in the First China Peking Opera Art Festival and was awarded the Performance Prize. In 1998, the newly adapted historical story drama Big-feet Queen won the Outstanding Play Award in the Second China Peking Opera Art Festival. In addition, plays such as Sea Oath describing Zheng Chenggong, Colored Ribbon Pearl depicting the Sino-Japanese friendship, Gao Junyu and Shi Pingmei in honor of revolutionary pioneers, Where Shepherd Boy Points to describing the apricot Fenjiu liquor, as well as Wind and Rain in Dragon Town in praise of clean and honest cadres, are given favorable comments by people from all circles.

I wanted to mention in closing that the .RMVB file format is hard to fast forward in VLC. I’ve read that this is probably due to corrupted frames. There are none noticeable in this video, but I did try three different “RMVB File Fixer” softwares on this file as well as others to see if they could be improved. My experience is that none work well at all.

As a final technical note, this file was downloaded through peer-to-peer aMule on Linux. Let me ask you: have you ever had trouble downloading a torrent because it disappears after a few days? I haven’t encountered this since starting to download Peking Operas from China. Chinese opera lovers are DEDICATED! Yes, it’s slow going, but the files remain available week after week. I love Chinese Opera fans, they are the best.