Chinese operas are interesting and attractive for the people who would like to study the unique instrument, musical forms as well as the Chinese singing ways. Besides opera art, Quyi, means melodies and skills in Chinese, plays another important role which asks performers combining the skills of speaking, learning and singing.Chinese traditional performances are the representatives of the national spirits, connotations and oldest cultures melted in them.
Peking OperaBeijing Opera or Peking Opera is regarded as the national opera in China for it has a long history and a complete system of stage performance. It was originally a local drama in Anhui Province.
As the story goes, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty fell interested in the local drama during his inspection of the Southern China in disguise. To celebrate his 80th birthday in 1790, he summoned opera troupes from different areas around China to perform for him in Beijing. After the celebration, four famous troupes from Anhui Provinces were asked to stay, for audiences were particularly pleased with their beautiful melodies, colorful costumes and interesting facial patterns.
Gradually it replaced Kunqu Opera which had been popular in the palace and among the upper ranks in Beijing. Later, some troupes from Hubei Province came to Beijing and often performed together with the Anhui troupes. The two types of singing blended on the same stage and gradually gave birth to a new genre that was known as Beijing Opera.
Beijing Opera absorbed various elements of its forerunners, such as singing, dancing, mimicry and acrobatics, and adapted itself in language and style of singing to Beijing audiences. As time went by, its popularity spread all over the country, becoming the most popular and influencing dramatic form on Chinese stage.
Kunqu OperaKunqu Opera first appeared in late Yuan Dynasty (1271A .D. -1368A .D.) some 600 years ago in the lower reaches of Yangtze River. It was one of the earliest genres of drama and named for its birthplace, Kunshan, near the city of Suzhou in today's Jiangsu Province. The opera reached its heyday during the reign of Qinglong in Qing Dynasty.
Characters of Kunqu Opera
Kunqu Opera is famous for its gentle and clear vocals, beautiful and refined tunes, and the perfect combination of dance and acrobatic performances. The music is much softer and the dialogue is more poetic and refined. The dance and movement of a role is gentle and closely connected with singing.
The musical instruments used in Kunqu Opera are distinguished from Beijing Opera. In order to match the poetry style of the play perfectly, flute is widely used as the accompanying instrument instead of instruments with strings. Boasting for its time-honored history and all-around skills, Kunqu Opera is considered as the mother of many other traditional operas, influencing Beijing Opera. It was awarded as one of 19 ‘Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO in May 2001.
Chinese Shadow PlayShadow play is taken as an earliest ancestor of modern cinema; the unique artistic value makes it be reserved from the ancient time.
Performers control characters while singing the libretto to tell the story behind the screen. The character, or we can say silhouette, is made of hard paper, buffalo and donkey hide. The silhouette is projected on a white screen as the actor or actress in this play.
Many artistic factors are included in this play. Light, screen, music, singing and puppetry form this interesting art. The harmonious appliance among these factors wins people’s high praise, and gets a name as “a magic, lighting-like art”.
As a renowned local opera mainly prevailing in Southwestern China's Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces, Sichuan Opera is characterized by unique solos, refined acting, rich percussion, and talented comedians, whose skills are unparalleled in the world. The opera's application to be enlisted as an Intangible World Heritage is currently pending.
Sichuan Opera features vivid, humorous narration, singing, and acrobatics. It also boasts a system of stylized movements and its acting is both exquisite and lively. Sichuan Opera performances are always full of wit, humor, lively dialogues, and pronounced local flavors. To portray special characters, the opera incorporates a series of stunts, including the famous "face-changing." In Chinese opera, facial makeup is usually painted, but in Sichuan Opera, the performer can change his or her facial makeup in the snap of a finger right on stage.
Most Sichuan Opera repertoires are adapted from the Chinese classical novels, mythologies, legends, and folk tales. Statistics show that the total number of Sichuan Opera plays exceeds 2,000. Sichuan Opera is noted for its high-pitched tunes, accompanied only by percussion instruments and choruses, without wind or stringed instruments. In addition, this spectacular theatrical presentation features bright sets and costumes, plus a combination of music, dance, and acrobatics. Among China's current 300 local theater traditions, Sichuan Opera has thrived and developed throughout ages as a distinct regional art form.
Its special characteristic -- one that distinguishes Sichuan Opera from other theatrical traditions -- is its immense vitality and dynamic performances that always strive to bring out an individual's artistic abilities into play to ensure fresh material, variety, and creativity. In part due to its intimate connection to a lively treasury of folk songs, Sichuan Opera reveals an extraordinary flexibility and vitality of expression in its music and movements.
The development of Sichuan Opera is intrinsically linked to the natural conditions in Sichuan. The principal agricultural products cultivated in Sichuan's extraordinarily fertile soil include rice, tea, and mulberry trees, whose leaves are used in the traditional industry of raising silkworms. Rustic songs originally sung by boatmen and tea-plantation and rice-paddy workers developed into famous local folk songs, which, in a sense, can be regarded as the precursors of the province's great operatic tradition.
One of the most fascinating, artistic charms of Sichuan Opera is "face-changing," which is achieved by quickly tearing off, rubbing, or blowing away a mask to reveal another.
The performer prepares many special masks in advance made of gauze and elastic materials, such as sheep embryo membranes and rubber. After the masks are painted with different designs and assembled with a special transparent thread, they are pasted onto the performer's face.
The special masks for "changing faces" must be made to fit the performer's face to ensure that they are pasted as close as possible to the skin. Previously, the masks were discarded after a performance, but today they can be recycled with some minor repairs.
Musically, Sichuan Opera combines five different sonic systems -- gao qiang, hu qin, deng diao, tan xi, and kun qu --, all of which were still represented by their own independent troupes respectively until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Founded in the province's capital city of Chengdu in 1912, the Sanqinghui troupe officially combined all five of these systems and fused them into a unique system of acting, singing, and instrumental music, where all of the librettos were written in the Sichuan dialect. The best-known style with most distinct characteristics of southwestern China is called gao qiang, which is distinguished by solos that are usually accompanied by sparse rhythmical accentuations played with wooden clappers.
This highly ornamental vocal style is distinguished by brilliantly artful glissando links, skillfully implemented vibrato embellishments around a single tone in the form of a delicately elegant yet energetically melodic ornamentation. The simplicity of the folk songs' melodic structures is often retained.
In addition, an orchestra chorus either comments on or repeats what has already been sung. A solo can also represent the chorus. In the past, members of the chorus also often doubled as percussionists and, like the percussionists, were clad in everyday garments and appeared in full view on stage. Nowadays, they perform in the orchestral area, which is situated along one side of the stage and is concealed from the audience.
The barbarian fiddle, or hu qin, was probably brought to Sichuan by the famous Peking Opera, where shrill-stringed are instruments are predominant. On the other hand, the masked theater known as deng diao, which evolved from exorcist ceremonies practiced in the villages, is clearly of Sichuan origin. Deng diao was only accepted very gradually and with much hesitation from professional performance troupes. Removable masks are distinct from the painted masks, which are traditionally worn by performers on stages elsewhere in China.
Alongside the dominant dialogues there are also numerous old folkloric themes that were typically heard in the past at rural festivals, weddings, and funeral processions. The accompanying instruments are primarily small drums and gongs.
Itinerant troupes from northern China probably brought the clapper element, tan xi, to Sichuan. This style is characterized by cunning, emotionally fraught rhythms played on wooden clappers, accompanied by the so-called "moon guitar."
The fifth stylistic element in Sichuan Opera is called kun qu. It originated in the southern Yangtze Basin and was later imported to Sichuan as a variant of the traditional and respected Kun Opera, with its discriminating literary dramas and fluent, highly artful melodies. The dominant melodic instrument here is the bamboo flute (di zi).
A single theater piece of Sichuan Opera usually combines two or three of the abovementioned musical styles. Only very rarely do all five systems appear together. The gao qiang style is the most frequent and its structure is most clearly developed.
Baixi Zhengba is a wonderful performance, which was derived from a magnificent performance happened in the HanDynasty.
Nowadays it is a performance including many unique skills of Sichuan Opera unique skills of Sichuan Opera and many folk performing arts in Sichuan Province.
Sichuan Opera, as one of most characteristic Chinese local drama, has a history over four hundred years. It is good at humorous actor’s lines and high literature value. Rolling Light is a unique skill of Sichuan Opera , and it’s also a classic clown play, which tells a story about a wife’s punishment to her husband.
Naotai is a piece of gong and frums music. It contents the best of the Operns of Sichuan Opera , and it is full of Sichuan folk charm and local feature.
Hand-shadow show is an ancient folk art. It derived shadow show, puppet show , and even the hand performing of Chinese operas.
Puppet show is rooted from, the Han Dynasty (202BC-204DC). Stick-puppet show is a knid of puppet performing, which the puppet and performer are all on the stage. It is specialized at both its exquisite model and difficult performing skills.
Changing Faces . Spitting Fire
Changing Faces is the magic unique skill of Sichuan Opera. It derived from Old West Shu Country and is well known all over the world. During the performance, the performances change their masks in a magic way to show the rapid diversification of the gut and the roles’ innermost being . Spitting Fire is one of unique skills of Sichuan opera. It was performed firstly in Legend of White Snake , a highlight of Sichuan opera. The skill of it is complicated and the fire is diversified and magnificent.