Opera and Local Operas
China boasts more than 300 forms
of traditional opera, of which Peking Opera is the most popular.
It took shape in the early 19th century in Beijing, hence the name.
Peking Opera is a unique art combining
drama, singing, music, dancing and martial arts into one. There
are more than 1,000 works in the repertoire, developed over 200
years. In the 50 years since the founding of New China the state
and people have paid great attention to Peking Opera. A lot of new
works have been staged, with themes ranging from historical stories,
modern revolutionary war and socialist construction to everyday
life. At the same time, a group of outstanding Peking Opera actors
and actresses have emerged, including Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu,
Ma Lianliang, Zhou Xinfang, and Du Jinfang. To develop the quintessence
of Chinese culture many artists and opera fans have done a lot of
work to promote this genre, even attracting foreign audiences.
China National Peking Opera Troupe performed Hua Mulan at
a hall in a New York fashions industry college, on Feb 18, 1999.
At the Crossroads
has been performed in many countries. Three martial heroes meet
in an inn. They quarrel, and attempt to secretly kill each other
in the dark. The skillful acrobatics called for in this opera are
both thrilling and humorous. Combat routines in the Peking Opera
repertoire such as this one combines Chinese martial arts and the
dramatic art and the actors and actresses must undergo strict physical
and skill training from childhood before they can live up to the
roles they play in such routines. Outstanding among them was the
late Mr. Gai Jiao Tien, who performed these militant acts still
with ease even at the age of 70.
Mei Lanfang, who always played
female roles, introduced Peking Opera to Japan, the United States
and the USSR as early as in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Peking Opera Institute,
founded in 1950, has trained a lot of excellent Peking Opera actors
and actresses who have inherited the artistic achievements of previous
generations and developed new characteristics of their own. At the
same time, the other local operas have made reforms continuously,
on the basis of keeping their basic traditions. Some of the local
operas have become very popular in recent years, such as Yueju (Shaoxing
Opera from Zhejiang), Huangmeixi (from Anhui), Chuanju (Sichuan Opera),
Yuju (Henan Opera), and Yueju (Guangdong Opera). Tibetan opera has
a religious tinge and is imbued with Tibetan ethnic folklore. It is
bold and unconstrained and is becoming more and more popular both
at home and abroad.