Jin-style Opera Arrived at London, Chinese Overseas Fed by the Cultural Banquet in the Year of Sheep
25 January 2015
SOAS University of
UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture
Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe
School of Oriental and African Studies Chinese Student & School Association
January 25, 2015. Although the New Year is still early in the Year of the Goat, the prelude to the celebration of the British Chinese has quietly kicked off. A symposium with the theme of "Welcoming the New Year: Peking Opera Enters Britain" was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The symposium was hosted by the British Institute of Chinese Traditional Culture (UKCTC) and the British Meihua Culture Co., Ltd., and co-organiSed by the Chinese Students' Association of SOAS. This time once again, the organiser invited the Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe of China here. Secretary Li Baoshi brought four outstanding young and middle-aged Peking Opera artists, Zhang Ke, Li Peihong, Kang Jian and Yang Guang, to bring their best work to Britain. Chinese and overseas Chinese students and foreign friends were presented a cultural feast full of strong Chinese flavor. Ms. Gui Qiulin, Dean of the British Academy of Chinese Traditional Culture presided over the symposium. Well-respected overseas Chinese leader Dr. Shan Sheng attended the meeting as an opera fancier, he listened to the talks and watched live performances with the audience.
The Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe of China can be said to be the "old friends" of Chinese and overseas Chinese students in the UK, especially for those who love Peking Opera. The troupe has visited the UK many times, every performance and lecture left a very deep impression on the participants. All the fans felt so delighted to have such a high-level Peking opera performance in a foreign country. At the same time, it evoked a deep sense of home sentiment and homesickness. The “Art Five” that visited the UK this time is brand new form of collaboration that brought excitement. At the symposium, the five artists from the Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe went from the history and development of Peking Opera to their personal experiences; from the characteristics of the characters in Peking Opera to the voice, rhythm and language, as well as the characteristics of the genre. Professor Qiu Zenghui, a luthier from London, UK, used Jinghu music on the spot. The artists interspersed with genric singing, hands, eyes, and body in their illustration and performances. Through ceaseless applause, the fans were milked with the magic of opera.
Ms Li Peihong, who is known as one of the "Five Little Chengdans", also performed a segment of the new play "Over the Wall" recently rehearsed by Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe together with her partner Kang Jian. The play is the work of Bai Pu, a famous opera writer in the Yuan Dynasty. It is one of the four greatest love stories of the Yuan Folk Opera, a tragicomedy with rich connotation and ups and downs. The two masters played the leading roles in the play. The emotional exchanges between the two artists were deeply sensed among the audience. The performance showed subtle and elegant beauty of traditional Chinese culture. It was a great chance for British audience to see this play just after its debut in China.
The performance pushed the atmosphere to the climax. Many fans were so fascinated and invited the artists to sing together. Professor Hua Ping from the University of Southampton loved Peking opera since she was a child. After collaborating with Li Peihong, she told the audience that she had studied modern Peking opera since she was a child, after coming to the UK, she developed a great interest in traditional Peking opera, especially the Cheng style. She though that it was a great honour to be able to work with Li, one of the well-renounced successors of Cheng style. Being invited by the audience, Dr. Shan Sheng also collaborated with several artists, performing excerpts from "Loosing the Battle of Jieting".
At the end of the symposium, Dean Gui Qiulin said that the purposes of constantly inviting the Chinese opera community to perform in the UK was to open a door for Chinese overseas and non-Chinese friends, offering them a chance to get to know the quintessence of Chinese culture, especially for the young generation. The use of diverse platforms would allow more people to appreciate the Chinese civilisation from different perspectives, and enrich the spiritual life of Chinese and overseas Chinese students in the UK.