Opera Beijing is the most perfect example of music in china and is the biggest Chinese opera form. It is often regarded as “Oriental Opera”. It has been in existence since 159 years ago and has created milestones in the Chinese drama scene. Some of its milestones include: opera troupes, countless artists, limitless repertoires and opera spectators.
Beijing Opera was created through absorption of other varieties of dramatic types, especially from the local drama known as “Huiban” which was very famous in South China during the 18th century. OB is a scenic art integrating aria, performance, music and face-painting. To engage the performers and the audience, certain rules and regulations have been set up to ensure most artists standardize their long practice on stage. It is quite different from regional plays in the sense that, it plays emphasis on strictness on the types of workshop. This art employs the combination of reality and virtual- a unique technique of expression, keeps it mainly free from the restriction of space and time on stage performance. Beijing Opera has won itself funny sounding names with deep meaning such as Jingxi, Daxi, Jinghuang, Pingju and Daxi.
Four Means of Artistic Presentation
The opera of Monkey-king Beijing Opera centers on dramatic figures and plays that employs the use of four artistic methods: martial art, dialogue, dancing and singing. Martial art is the transformation and combination of traditional Chinese combat exercises with moves/dances. Dialogue compliments singing which is majorly made up of rhythm and musical sensation. Dancing is defined as the body movements that require high performing skills. Singing is used to further intensify the appeal of art through varieties of tones.
Main Roles in Opera Beijing Performance
This is a name very common to male characters and comprises of Xia Sheng and Lao Sheng. Xiao Sheng refers to a young man without a beard. Zhangsheng in “The Story of the West Room” is a perfect example of Xia Sheng. Lao Sheng means a man, who is middle-aged, has a beard and acts as a decency figure; for example, Zhugeliang in “Empty City Scheme”.
This is the famous name given to female characters and can be divided into Zhengdan, Wudan, Huadan and Laodan. Zhengdan is also referred to “Qinggyi”, who basically plays the part of the strong-minded middle aged woman who acts very elegant. Wudan represents a female who is good at fighting. Huadan indicates little girls who often live in the bottom of society and Laodan is played as a Senior woman.
Jing is a male character with a painted face who is seen to potray unique personality or appearance. Examples of such a character are Caocao and Baozheng. Also, Chou is a villainous, righteous or comic role played by an actor. The actor’s is easily recognized amidst the other casts as his nose is painted by a piece of white powder.
Facial Painting (Lianpu)
Facial painting in Beijing Opera
In Beijing Opera (lianpu), facial painting is formed with dramatic artists “long-term practice and their precise judgment and understanding of the different roles in plays. There is always noticeable colorful dressing on actors faces in OB. By using exaggerated and transformative figures, spectators who are professionals can easily tell the characteristic of a role. This is why it is called “the picture of hearts”. There are certain manners through which face paintings can be done and aspects such as shape, type and color are to be considered seriously. Many times, the cheeks, eyes, and foreheads are painted like wings of swallows, butterflies and bats.
Lianpu colors come in different variations with each representing a particular character. For example, white represents cunning and cattiness, with Caocao as a great portrayal, a popular politican in the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Black stands for frankness and honesty, as portrayed by Lord Bao, who happens to be a righteous official during Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), or impertinence and abruptness, such as Likui, a very important figure in the famous Chinese ancient novel “All Men Are Brothers .Red, which symbolizes loyalty, as shown by Guanyu, a great general during Three Kingdoms Period (220-280).
Stage Properties (Qimo)
Qimo is a general designation for all types of simple settings and stage properties used in Beijing Opera performances. It is derived from true real life experience. For example, an actor can project the scene of galloping the horse through the use of a horsewhip without having to actually ride a real horse on stage. A bridge is made up of two chairs standing on each side of a table. Storm effects are created by performers dancing with umbrellas. The imaginary feature of this type of performance skills largely gives performers the freedom to express more life scenes on stage.
Four Famous Artists
Liyuan Theatre, Qianmen Hotel, Beijing has witnessed lots of famous masters who are good at performing Beijing Opera. We shall list out few of them, they include the four famous Dans:
- Mei Lanfang
- Cheng Yanqiu
- Shang Xiaoyun and
- Xun Huisheng
These popular Dan are widely well-known at home and abroad and are experts at performing the role of Dan with each having his own artistic feature. For example, “Farewell My Concubine” by Mei Lanfang, “Lady Zhaojun Going beyond the Great Wall” by Shang Xiayun, “Injustice to Dou’e” by Cheng Yanqiu and “Matchmaker” by Xun Huisheng.
Opera Beijing, otherwise known as Peking opera, combines acrobatics, music, performance and vocal to portray the heart and soul of Chinese national culture. Its unique attributes inspires fundamental values, culture and relations of the Chinese people. Peking opera was labeled “bourgeois” and “feudalistic” during the time of the 1960s Cultural Revolution and was replaced by the eight revolutionary model operas as a means of influencing the behavior and opinions of large number of people. After the Cultural Revolution, these new changes were greatly undone..
There is no doubt that this is truly the treasure of Chinese culture. It first began in the late 18th century and quickly rose to recognition in the mid-19th century. If you so desire (like many others) the true experiences of real Opera Beijing, Liyuan Theatre in Beijing is a perfect choice just for you.