Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beijing Opera Lessons 1: A Clown Scene

A few months ago a new series of educational VCDs appeared in stores in China, those digital videos were designed for teaching Peking Opera (Beijing Opera) to Primary and High school teachers: "中小学京剧进课堂必学唱段名师欣赏与教学". (1)

Chinese government decided Chinese Opera should be taught in many regions of the country as a way to introduced children in one of the treasures of traditional Chinese culture. This program has been badly criticized by many art specialists and pedagogues, and the reasons for it are simple: How teachers can transmit something they don't know? Beijing Opera (and Chinese Opera in general) is not only a very difficult Performing Art, it is simply unknown in the new China, only specialist can talk and teach about it, teachers are simply not prepared for it.

Well, these videos seems being an effort to resolve this problem, and it could help yes, but the problem is much wider I guess.

Let the Chinese government resolves this question and we can step forward taking advantage of its "products".

We are not Chinese high school teachers but we are almost in the same level of knowledge about Chinese opera (much less, of course), so we can also use them for learning this ancient and special art and we can do it with practical exercises!

I was very surprised these videos were performed by very young actors, but all of them professionals and currently teachers in professional Opera Schools in China.

Seeing it from this point of view it is a very important step to open Beijing Opera to anyone in the world, trying to show some hidden secrets on acting in this kind of theatre. I'm pretty sure that being a very codified and elaborate Performing Art, Peking Opera needs this kind of products to show how is performed and how its acting technique is without myths or second tales in between.

Of course for Westerners (actors or not) it is a real exotic curiosity but I'm sure it could be a big help to anyone interested in Asian Performing Arts and Acting techniques. Even if the videos are very basic and only spoken in Chinese, they could be understood by anyone interested just making a small effort: movements, rhythm, tempo, everything (I believe) is understandable without knowing the meaning of the speech. Of course any knowledge on Chinese language would be a great help.

The first video I want to share explains how to perform a Chinese Opera clown character, a Chou type (or Xiaohualian), in a scene called “报灯名” or Bao dengming (reporting the lights) from the opera 《打龙袍》Da Longpao (Beating the Royal Robe).

Video of Beijing Opera Lessons 1


(1) You can find information about this video at: (It is a Chinese site of course, but you can automatically translate the page and get the information in your language).

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