You are on page 1of 3

Peking opera or Beijing opera (simplified Chinese: 京剧; traditional Chinese: 京劇; pinyin: Jīngjù) is a form traditional Chinese

theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th [1] [2] century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court. Major performance troupes are [3] based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south. The art form is also preserved in Taiwan, where it is known as Guoju (國劇; pinyin: Guójù). It has also spread to other countries such as the United States and Japan.

Peking opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the [5] plot of the production. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music. The music of Peking opera can be divided into the Xipi (西皮) and Erhuang (二黄) styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies, and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Peking opera includes [7] over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life. Peking opera was denounced as 'feudalistic' and 'bourgeois' during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and replaced with the eight revolutionary model operas as a means of propaganda and [8] indoctrination. After the Cultural Revolution, these transformations were largely undone. In recent years, Peking opera has attempted numerous reforms in response to sagging audience numbers. These reforms, which include improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements, and performing new and original plays, have met with mixed success.

"Peking opera" is the English term for the art form; the term entered the Oxford English Dictionary in [9] 1953. Beijing opera is a more recent equivalent. In China, the art form has been known by many other names in different times and places. The earliest Chinese name was a combination of the Xipi and Erhuang melodies, and was called Pi Huang. As it increased in popularity, its name became Jingju or Jingxi, which reflected its start in the capital city, Jing, and the form of the performance, Xi. From 1927 to 1949, Beijing was known as Beiping, and Peking opera was known as Pingxi or Pingju (Traditional 平劇, Simplified 平剧) to reflect this change. Finally, with the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the name of the capital city was reverted to Beijing, and the formal name of Beijing theatre in Mainland China was established as Jingju. The Taiwanese name for this type of opera, Guoju, national theatre style, reflects disputes over the true seat of the [10] Chinese government.

Peking opera was born when the 'Four Great Anhui Troupes' brought Anhui opera, or what is now [11] called Huiju, in 1790 to Beijing, for the eightieth birthday of the Qianlong Emperor on 25 [12] September. It was originally staged for the court and only made available to the public later. In 1828, several famous Hubei troupes arrived in Beijing and performed jointly with Anhui troupes. The combination gradually formed Peking opera's melodies. Peking opera is generally regarded as having [13] fully formed by 1845. Although it is called Peking opera (Beijing theatre style), its origins are in the southern Anhui and eastern Hubei, which share the same dialect of Xiajiang Mandarin (Lower Yangtze Mandarin). Peking opera's two main melodies,Xipi and Erhuang, were derived from Han Opera after about 1750. The tune of Peking opera is extremely similar to that of Han opera, therefore Han opera is

performance elements. rarely has a singing part in Peking opera. This encouraged other female troupes to form. Such changes have generally met with disdain from Peking-opera performers. while many conventions of staging. [20] although male Dan continued to be popular after this period. They were given a venue for their talents when Li Maoer. [14] Modern Peking opera[edit] During the second half of the 20th century. Chinese puppet shows always involve singing. Some of those seen in traditional works have been called "technique for technique's sake". The appearance of women on the stage began unofficially during the 1870s. By 1894. The Qianlong Emperor had banned all female performers in Beijing in 1772. in which theZhongyuan Mandarin dialects of Henan and Shaanxi are closest. with only a few voices and singing patterns. The melodies that accompany each play were also simplified. The popularity of Peking opera has been attributed to the simplicity of the form. Peking opera witnessed a steady decline in audience numbers. referring to the puppet show that originated inShaanxi province. This has included the use of extended high pitch sequences by female Dan. and foreign techniques have been adopted. utilizing modern elements to attract new audiences. This was accepted. [17] cementing its status over earlier forms like Kunqu. the Empress Dowager Cixi became a regular patron of Peking opera. these reforms have been hampered by both a lack of funding and an adverse political climate [32] that makes the performance of new plays difficult. and are played with different traditional instruments than in earlier forms.widely known as the Mother of Peking opera. who see them as ploys to gain immediate audience appeal. In response. unlike the equivalent role in Kunqu style. The vocal requirements for all of the major roles were greatly reduced for Peking opera. and were invited to perform in the court of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom that had been established during the Taiping Rebellion. in particular. the [14][15][16] form that preceded it as court art. This has been attributed both to a decrease in performance quality and an inability of the [30] traditional opera form to capture modern life. Perhaps most noticeably. and the addition of lengthier movement sections and percussion sequences to traditional works. The Chou. himself a former Peking-opera performer. Regional. However. Plays with repetitive sequences have also been shortened to hold audience [33] interest. This form of Mandarin is recorded in the book Zhongyuan Yinyun. New works have naturally experienced a greater freedom to experiment. The form grew in popularity throughout the 19th century. founded the first female Peking-opera troupe in Shanghai. Peking opera began to see reform starting in the 1980s. As a result. Xipi literally means 'Skin Puppet Show'. Some scholars believe that the Xipi musical form was derived from the historic Qinqiang. and the ban was lifted in 1912. The influence of Western culture has also left the younger generations impatient with the slow pacing of [31] Peking opera. This allowed anyone to sing the [18][19] arias themselves. In addition to more formal reform measures. Much dialogue is also carried out in an archaic form of Mandarin Chinese. and performing new plays outside of the traditional canon. Such reforms have taken the form of creating a school of performance theory to increase performance quality. but rather a coalescence of many older forms. theatre artist Yu Zhenting petitioned for the lifting of the ban after the founding of the Republic of China in 1911. popular. including Western style makeup and beards and new face . the archaic language of Peking opera required productions to utilize electronic subtitles. the new form also creates its own innovations. which hampered the development of the form. Peking opera was initially an exclusively male pursuit. Thus. However. which gradually increased in popularity. the first commercial venue showcasing female performance troupes appeared in Shanghai. Peking-opera troupes during the 1980s also adopted more unofficial changes. It also absorbed music from other operas and local Zhili musical art forms. Beginning in 1884. The Anhui troupes reached their peak of excellence in the middle of the century. and aesthetic principles were retained from Kunqu. Female performers began to impersonate male roles and declared equality with men. true acrobatic [15] elements were introduced with Peking opera. Furthermore. Peking opera is not a monolithic form.

The theatre department at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa has been home to English language Jingju for more than twenty-five years. Mei traveled across the United States. To survive in an increasingly open market.paint designs for Jing characters. the favorable reception of Mei and his troupe in New York City disproved this notion. The spirit of reform continued during the 1990s. troupes like the Shanghai Peking Opera Company needed to bring traditional Peking opera to new audiences. [34] Peking opera around the world[edit] In addition to its presence in Mainland China. such as the actor Otis Skinner. Visual Performance Elements:   Principles of Movements Staging and Costumes Peking Opera Houses:      Prince Gong Mansion Zhengyici-xi-lou Huguang Guild Hall National Centre for Performing Arts Chang’an Grand Theatre Aural Performance Elements:     Vocal Production Stage Speech Song Music Colors of Peking Opera Mask:        Red – color of loyalty. including Peking opera. The performer has traditionally played a large role in the scripting and staging of Peking-opera works. He [41] followed this tour with a tour in the Soviet Union in 1935. It can be [38] found in Hong Kong. one of the most famous Dan performers of all time. Mei Lanfang. To do this. and stubbornness Gold and silver – faces of demons and monsters . and the duration of the tour extended from two weeks to five. Channel CCTV-11 in Mainland China is currently dedicated to broadcasting classic Chinese opera [37] productions. and suspicious character Purple – Solemnity. perhaps following the lead of the West. and courage Black – Serious taciturn disposition White – Crafty. Although some. This inspired an American tour in February 1930. he performed Peking opera in Japan. and overseas Chinese communities elsewhere. The performances had to be relocated from the 49th Street Theater to the larger [39][40] National Theater. receiving honorary degrees from the University of California and Pomona College. believed that Peking opera could never be a success in the United States. Taiwan. was also one of the greatest popularizers of Peking opera abroad. During the 1920s. they have offered an increasing number of free performances [35] in public areas. and Justice Yellow – Intelligence Blue – uprightness. Peking opera has spread to many other places. integrity. the most recent being The White Snake in 2010. However. The school offers Asian Theatre as a major and has regular Jingju performances. There has also been a general feeling of a shift in the creative attribution of Peking-opera works. Performers have striven to introduce innovation in their work [36] while heeding the call for reform from this new upper level of Peking-opera producers. Peking opera in recent decades has shifted to a more director and playwright centered model.