(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.
(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.
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.
Dates: May 06-08, 2010 19:30
Price: VIP 380 280 180 120 80 RMB
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.