Performance

Beijing opera performance is based on conveying meaning rather than reality (Wichmann 1991: 2). In order to do so performers relied on the skills of song (chang), speech (nian), dance-acting (zuo), and combat (da). In order to understand much of the play, the audience needs to have some prior knowledge of the actions and sounds (6). This included props. With traditionally only a chair and table on stage Beijing opera actors had use text and gesture to let the audience know the story (Riley 1997: 15). Occasional props such as paddles and silk horse whips allow the audience member some insight into the motions.

The second part of the page is about music. Beijing opera music is based on two musical modes: xipi and erhuang (Wichmann: 53-54)(Pian 2001: 282). One or both can be found in a particular opera (Wichmann: 132). Beijing opera actors are accompanied by an orchestra who traditionally sat on the stage, but presently is off stage (Pian: 287). The orchestra is divided into two sections: melodic (wenchang) and percussion (wucheng) (Wichmann: 226)(Pian: 285). Melodic instruments include the high two-string spiked fiddle (jinghu), alto two-string spiked fiddle (erhu), a short lute (yueqin), and an instrument similar in shape and sound to a clarinet (suona) (Wichmann: 226-233)(Pian: 285). In the percussion section is the drum-and-clapper (guban), the conductor of the musical ensemble, the large gong (daluo), the small gong (xiaoluo), and the cymbals (naobo)(Wichmann: 233)(Pian: 285).

galleriapangea. 2007. Beijing Opera Performance Clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYWiQ_RnLWE. 9 Oct. 2010.


1. Performance


Books:

  • Bao, Chengjie and Juan Cao. 2002. Fascinating Stage Arts. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

  • This book provides a background on a variety of operas such as local operas (Sichuan and Pingju) as well as Beijing opera. Focusing on history, performer roles, famous actors and actresses, makeup, costumes, music, and stage with numerous color pictures and paint masks, this book describes the actors and performance components that bring the opera to life.

    "It [Traditional Chinese theatre] is a comprehensive art form, containing elements of poetry, music, dance, and fine art" (Forward, n.p).

  • Riley, Jo. 1997. Chinese theatre and the actor in performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Riley writes about how the Chinese view theatre through discussing and analyzing Mei Lanfang and his performance. Some elements discussed are dissection and reassembling, the ties between performer and audience, and how Chinese spectators see plays in a variety of ways.

    "The performer is trained (prepared) to dissect parts of his corporeal body in performance as separate units of articulation - hand, eye, finger, foot" (315).

  • Scott, A.C. 1982. Actors are Madmen: Notebook of a Theatregoer in China. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    This book discusses personal encounters with Chinese theatre through a narrative style, especially Beijing opera during the author's stay in China from 1947 until 1949 in Nanjing and Shanghai. The opera is further examined on a 1956 return visit to mainland China.

    "When an amateur gave a performance, he had personally to defray expenses for musicians, stage hands, and supporting players but was forbidden to accept payment for himself. If he broke this rule, it was said that he had "seized the black pestle" and after that was ostracised by all his associates" (13).

  • This book uses the Wade-Giles romanization instead of the pinyin.

    If you want to convert Wade-Giles to pinyin click on the Wade-Giles convertor link below.


    Library of Congress Pinyin Conversion Project. 1999. New Chinese Romanization Guidelines. Library of Congress. May 28. http://www.loc.gov/catdir/pinyin/romcover.html. 28 Sept. 2010.

  • Wichmann, Elizabeth. 1991. Listening to Theatre: The Aural Dimensions of Beijing Opera. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (also in the music section)

    Wichmann focuses on the aural performance aspect of Beijing Opera (speech, music and other vocally produced sounds). Some topics discussed within the book are Beijing opera performance, how language is used within Beijing opera performance, musical structure and composition, and the musical instruments.

    "Every aspect of traditional Beijing opera performance is governed by three aesthetic principles: synthesis, stylization, and convention. Together, these principles provide the basic fabric of Beijing opera performance--the overall patterns (guilu) that characterize each aspect of Beijing opera performance, as well as the relationships among them" (225).


  • 2.Music


    Books:

  • Pian, Rulan Chao. 2001. "Peking Opera: Jingju." In Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. ed. Robert Province, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Witzleben, 7th vol., pp. 281-286. New York: Garland Publications. Full text version at http://glnd.alexanderstreet.com/.

    Pian discusses the role of music in Beijing opera including its structure, setting text, styles of speech, and orchestra. The article goes into an in-depth musical analysis about melodic and aria structure, allowing for a deeper musical understanding of Beijing opera.

    "The shaping of a Peking opera melody, then, follows many established conventions, such as the proper aria type for a certain dramatic situation and the melodic form required for a particular dramatic role. Even the placement of the seven or ten syllables within each line of an aria type is fixed" (284).

  • Wichmann, Elizabeth. 1991. Listening to Theatre: The Aural Dimensions of Beijing Opera. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (also in the performance section)

    Wichmann focuses on the aural performance aspect of Beijing opera (speech, music and other vocally produced sounds). Some topics discussed within the book are Beijing opera performance, how language is used within Beijing opera performance, musical structure and composition, and the musical instruments.

    "The Beijing opera orchestra provides a fabric of punctuating and integrating sound that runs throughout every Beijing opera performance, serving simultaneously to aurally characterize every performance as Beijing opera, and to express the musical interpretation of each play's atmosphere and emotional content" (225).


  • Internet Resources:

  • Wang, Xu-ming. n.dFIX. Arias and Dialogues. http://www.chinapage.org/main2.html. 8 Oct. 2010.

    In order to reach this page you will need to enter the Beijing opera page (a red tab on the first page) and then click the more Arias link on the Beijing opera page. All of the arias after the first three (17 in total) can be played on Windows Media Player. Also included are the role types (with links to the role type page) who sing the areas and the opera name.

Stef's Gallery. 2009. Peking Opera in Beijing. Jan. 10. Picasa Web Albums. http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/IA2mnMUP2xkjgLn-qCEVYg. 4 Oct. 2010.