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Peking Opera at Sunbeam Theatre, North Point

Peking opera or Beijing opera is a form of 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 century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south.

Peking opera was denounced as 'feudalistic' and 'bourgeois' during the Cultural Revolution, and replaced with the eight revolutionary model operas as a means of propaganda and 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.

The Sheng (生) is the main male role in Peking opera. The laosheng is a dignified older role. These characters have a gentle and cultivated disposition and wear sensible costumes. One type of laosheng role is the hongsheng, a red-faced older male. The only two hongsheng roles are Guan Gong, the Chinese god of sworn brotherhood, loyalty and righteousness, and Zhao Kuang-yin, the first Song Dynasty emperor. Young male characters are known as xiaosheng. These characters sing in a high, shrill voice with occasional breaks to represent the voice changing period of adolescence.

The Dan (旦) refers to any female role in Peking opera. Dan roles were originally divided into five subtypes. Old women were played by laodan, martial women were wudan, young female warriors were daomadan, virtuous and elite women were qingyi, and vivacious and unmarried women were huadan.

The Jing (净) is a painted face male role. Depending on the repertoire of the particular troupe, he will play either primary or secondary roles. This type of role will entail a forceful character, so a Jing must have a strong voice and be able to exaggerate gestures.[53] Peking opera boasts 15 basic facial patterns, but there are over 1000 specific variations. Each design is unique to a specific character.

The Chou (丑) is a male clown role. The Chou usually plays secondary roles in a troupe. Indeed, most studies of Peking opera classify the Chou as a minor role. Chou has the meaning "ugly". This reflects the traditional belief that the clown's combination of ugliness and laughter could drive away evil spirits. Chou roles can be divided into Wen Chou, civilian roles such as merchants and jailers, and Wu Chou, minor military roles. The Wu Chou is one of the most demanding in Peking opera, because of its combination of comic acting, acrobatics, and a strong voice.

Mei Lanfang (梅兰芳) (October 22, 1894 – August 8, 1961) was one of the most famous Peking opera artists in modern history, exclusively known for his qingyi roles, a type of dan role. Méi Lánfāng is his stage name, and in Chinese it is generally considered a feminine name. His real name was Méi Lán (梅瀾). Mei, Shang Xiaoyun, Cheng Yanqiu and Xun Huisheng were known as Four Great Dan in the golden era of Peking Opera.

On 16-20 January 2013, the Mei Lanfang Peking Opera Troupe performed at the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point Hong Kong to sell out audience each night. Led by Mei Baojiu, son of Mei Lanfang and Ye Shaolan, son of another famous Xiaosheng master Ye Shenglan, the performances were memorable and captured in this galley.

Hu Wenge plays Cheng Xueer
Hu Wenge plays Cheng Xueer
Ye Shaolan plays Mu Huyi
Ye Shaolan plays Mu Huyi
Mei Baojiu plays Cheng Xueer
Mei Baojiu plays Cheng Xueer
Mei Baojiu and Ye Shaolan
Mei Baojiu and Ye Shaolan
Mei Baojiu the artiste
Mei Baojiu the artiste