Peking Opera - Bel Canto in Chinese: Introducing Its Vocal Training Process

By Zhang, Wen | Journal of Singing, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Peking Opera - Bel Canto in Chinese: Introducing Its Vocal Training Process


Zhang, Wen, Journal of Singing


(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

INTRODUCING PEKING OPERA

PEKING OPERA, A CHINESE CULTURAL TREASURE with a history of over 200 years, is a synthesis of singing, dancing, acting, and acrobatics, as well as instrumental music. A widely regarded expression of Chinese culture, Peking Opera includes many historic events and legends in its rich and large repertoire, and it features a great variety of dramatic gestures, artistic face painting, and elaborate costumes in its performances. It is a highly entertaining and fascinating art form, even to people who do not understand Chinese.1

During the ten-year Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), there were eight so-called "Revolutionary Operas" that dominated theaters and media throughout China; the rest of Peking Opera repertoire was dismissed as the legacy of feudalism. Those eight operas were promoted for ideological reasons to meet Chairman Mao's and his wife Madam Jiang's political views. As most Chinese in that generation could sing quite a few songs from the eight operas, the phenomenon was historically famous as "800 million people with eight operas" (the population of China at that time).

In the late 1970s, as China began to open to the Western world, Chinese people were newly exposed to modern Western music. Likewise, Chinese culture started to attract Western society; foreigners visited China and wished to learn its legends from Peking Opera. Since then, that national treasure has made significant contributions to cultural exchange. Oscar-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun incorporated a great deal of Peking Opera style into his new opera, The First Emperor, which had a successful world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2006; it featured Western opera legend Placido Domingo in ten performances singing the leading role of the Chinese Emperor.

In recent years, Peking Opera has faced the same challenges troubling Western opera: reduced audiences and lack of newcomers. Instead of offering discount tickets and free lectures to young generations (as is the case with American opera houses), the Chinese Ministry of Education recently announced a pilot program of teaching Peking Opera in elementary and high schools. Fifteen carefully selected works from the Peking Opera repertoire have been added to the music curricula of 200 schools in ten provinces throughout China. This move immediately drew public attention, and the educational approach has spawned diverse opinion. A survey by Netease (news portal in China) shows that twenty-seven percent of the participants believe that such a course can foster a new generation of Peking Opera fans; seventeen percent think the course should not be compulsory, as students' opinions should be respected; if students are forced to learn, they will lose interest. Additionally, some question the high school teachers' abilities to cope with the challenges of teaching the selected repertoire, because Peking Opera is a sophisticated art form requiring years of professional training for one to attain proficiency.

Introducing Peking Opera into school curricula and getting students interested in the course can be challenging, especially when one considers that most young Chinese have been drawn to rock and pop music in a fashion similar to the phenomenon of American Idol in the United States. Serious procedures have been established to meet this challenge. The fifteen selected opera repertoires have been carefully reviewed by a panel of educators and other experts to ensure that the selections represent the great art form of Peking Opera, and can be meticulously taught to students in modern Chinese languages. Meanwhile, some professional outreach programs are available to help teach the projects in schools.

VOICE TRAINING AT EARLY AGES

Peking Opera has a tradition of training performers at early ages, usually between eight and twelve years old. Students are carefully selected to enter the Opera Garden, a Peking Opera school for an eleven year training program, which includes voice training (chanting and singing), body training (dancing and fighting), and general history and culture studies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Peking Opera - Bel Canto in Chinese: Introducing Its Vocal Training Process
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.