The Four Great Jingju Dan Performers
– performance and lecture-Demonstration
13 May 2012
UK Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture
London Jing Kun Opera Association
The UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture (UKCTC) and the London Jing Kun Opera Association (LJKOA) held a lecture-demonstration on ‘The Four Great Jingju Dan Performers’ of the early 20th century. The speaker was Dr Jun Ai who gave a bilingual presentation. Mr Zhao Lei, Consul and First Secretary of the London Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, and Mrs Zhao, attended this event, which was part of the series celebrating the 10th Anniversary of LJKOA, sponsored by the UKCTC.
Miss Gillian Simpson was given the limelight in the opening item. She dazzled as Lady Yang (杨贵妃), in full costume and make-up, in a short excerpt from the most famous work of the great Jingju Master, Mei Lanfang’s (梅兰芳), The Intoxicated Imperial Concubine (贵妃醉酒). Miss Simpson’s rich vocals and well-executed movements were impressive. She is an electronic design engineer from Preston, Lancashire. She fell in love with Jingju on a trip to China in 1988. Since then, she has sought instructions periodically in China and Hong Kong, and has performed in amateur competitions and showcases in Beijing, Dalian and Singapore in the roles of Lady Yang and Yuji (虞姬) in The King Bids Farewell to His Favourite (霸王别姬). She has also performed in the UK.
In the lecture-demonstration, Dr Jun Ai was most impressive in his knowledge and his astonishing command of the vocal characteristics of four of the Dan Masters of the early to mid-Twentieth Century. He captured the beautiful and complex manipulation of the middle to low range vocals of Cheng Yanqiu for sadness and grief; the high, open and full notes of Shang Xiaoyun; the coquettish charm of Xun Huisheng and the regal flow of Zhang Junqiu. The audience was curious as to how Dr Ai has learnt to assimilate the vastly different singing styles. He jokingly said that his teacher’s surname was Lu, and the full name was ‘lu yin ji’. The audience roared with laughter, as the words meant ‘record’, ‘sound’, ‘machine’! He said that he has been a keen amateur since he started learning in 1994, and has never slackened in his pursuit. As a complement to the session, Mrs Kathy Hall demonstrated movements with the folding fan, the round fan, the watersleeves and the horse-whip.
The event was indeed a sumptuous aural and visual feast! Mrs Sherry Kuei Chan, the Dean of UKCTC, said that the UKCTC would continue to showcase the best of traditional Chinese culture to the public.