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Beijing Opera

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Beijing Opera - Theater Arts

During the 18th-19th century Peking opera or more commonly known as Beijing Opera, become highly popular in the Qing Dynasty. It had attained such levels that it was specifically being performed in the royal court and later was opened to public. Native to the Anhui and Hubei province this art later became the cultural jewel of Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. Over the period of time its fame crossed the Great Wall of China and spread to countries like Japan, Taiwan and eventually America.

The movements of the talented dancers are very graceful and beautiful. A combination of music, song, dance, dialogue and combat are used to the fullest extent to portray the storyline which majorly revolves around Chinese ancient folklore and history. The Beijing opera performers wear bright colored outfits to be the center of attraction on sparingly decorated stage. The dialect used in dialogue delivery is archaic dialect. Since it has a great historical value the actors really worked hard in order to respect and carry on the tradition. Actors often begin training for the opera, at a very early age and it can lasts for several years, the age they began was totally depending on the permission from the parents. The teacher expect their students to eventually pay them back by the future performances. Daily routine consisted of early rise followed by training in acting, acrobatics, and combat. The senior students perform in the evening theaters. If an unfortunate student made a mistake, then the group of students associated with them were punished with bamboo cane but methods in training became less painful during the 1900s. The opera schools were shut down during the Japanese invasion in 1931 but again reestablished in 1952. There are several famous schools, that are very popular in this art and the most renowned are: Ma Lianliang, Qi Lintong and the Cheng Yanqiu school.

The Four Anhui Troupes was responsible for the birth of Beijing opera in the late 1700s. They were joined by the Hubei tropes in the early 1800s and came to its complete form in mid 1800s. They made some changes in the art of actually creating a mixture of various unique dance forms and music. The Beijing opera has four main characters. Sheng, plays the main male role along with his subtype Laosheng, old and wise version, Xiaosheng, the younger version and Wusheng, the warrior version. He is gentle and sophisticated and the costumes they were are decorated in a subtle fashion. The Laosheng character is further categorized as Guan Gong, God of War and Zhao Kuang-yin, the first emperor of the Song Dynasty. Xiaosheng sings in a loud and shrill voice.

It became a new tradition in the later years, for the male actors to paint their faces. These characters were known as Jing. They were usually supporting characters and were forceful so they had to have a heavy voice and exaggerated expression. Dan is the female lead and is divided into five types. Laodan was played by aged ladies, Wudan was played by middle aged women depicting married women, Daomadan were brave female warriors, Qingyi were righteous women and Huadan were young and innocent girls. Huashan is the role Qingyi and Huadan play together.

Chou is the male clown role played. It was a minor role to add some humor to serious scenes. The character of Chou hardly got a chance to sing when compared to the Kunqu opera which was its inspiration. On the whole this art form cut down on the voice and singing .Acrobatics came to its full form in Beijing opera. Therefore the actors that did not do much singing and were highly talented in acrobatics, were eagerly welcomed into the performing troupe.

The drama was being accompanied with music. The two different styles of music being played are Xipi, created by the Anhui tropes and Erhuang, created by the Hubei tropes. Based on this music, the earliest name of Beijing opera was Pihuang which changed according to geographical location and time. The melodies can be classified as arias, fixed and percussion. It was known as Guoju in Taiwan.

The Anhui troupe gained name and fame after forming Beijing opera and were invited to various kingdoms to perform. One of the earliest great admirers of this form of opera was, Empress Dowager Cixi and she encouraged and supported it. Qianlong Emperor had banned female actors, so the performing troupes consisted of only males at first. But in the 1870s, a former Beijing opera performer, Li Maoer started a female troupe, which persuaded others to take the lead and finally the ban was lifted in 1912.

Today, Beijing opera productions are almost identical to those performed by troupes prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.

It was during the Cultural Revolution that the Beijing operas was used as a main forced used to provide information, teachings, and political beliefs; today it is predominantly a form of entertainment, as it was in the past.

Elements of Classical Music

For the most part it can be distinguished by the type of instruments in the musical piece. Most modern forms of music only have a couple of instrumentations used in its creation, whereas classical music uses several types of instrumentation. Musicians of this type of music are extremely skilled in their chosen instrument because of the detailed compositions.

The instruments used in classical music generally come from five or so different groups of instruments, including string instruments, woodwinds, brass instruments and percussion instruments. The use of these types of instruments generally makes up a symphonic orchestra. When the human voice is added to this ensemble of instrument, and opera is formed.

The forms of classical music are numerous as and tend to be very well defined. The concerto is a musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra. This form of music was established in the Baroque period and has continued to be a strong musical force today. The symphony is a musical composition and is usually for an orchestra.  The opera is an art form in which singer and musicians work together to produce a work that combines text and musical. Another form is known as dance music and its specific use is to facilitate or accompany dancing. This form can either be a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. The suite form of music is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces of music that are performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniments. An etude is a short musical composition designed to provide practice in a particular technical skill in the performance of a solo instrument. A symphonic poem, also known as a tone poem, is a piece of orchestral music in one movement in which some extra-musical program provides a narrative or illustrative event.

Classical music requires a strong knowledge of music and as well as skill in playing an instrument. Knowledge of music must include the familiarity of development, modulation, variation, musical phrases that are of differing lengths, counterpoint, polyphony as well as sophisticated harmony. The skill involved in playing an instrument requires the musician to be adept at sight reading, have the ability to coordinate with other players in the ensemble as well as experience in playing a composer’s music.

The popularity of classical music has been debated for years. It has been said that it is strictly for upper-class citizens, and at the same time others have said that it is popular with the working class. All in all, the popularity depends on what one considers to be classical music. Certain staples of classical music are often used commercially. Movies and television often use standard clichéd pieces of classical music to convey certain emotions to their audiences. In order for the commercial use of classical music to be effective, it has to rely on the fact that anyone who listens to the music will recognize it and be emotionally drawn to it.

Classical music has many forms that make up the genre, even though no specific form is implied in its description. The knowledge and skill of classical musicians makes these musicians sought after for orchestras or symphonies. The commercial use of certain classical pieces helps to keep the classical music alive and available to all classes of people.

About the Author:
Zack Fair

writes for a Royalty Free

Music provider UniqueTracks.com that offers royalty free classical music

and background, and production music. Create presentations and use special

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