Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fes Festival Highlights #2 - Beijing Opera (京剧)

Having the Peking opera or Beijing opera perform at the Fes Festival of World Sacred music is a major plus for the festival

The Beijing Opera, combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognised 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.

The Beijing Opera features four main types of performers, and four major roles
Sheng (生), Dan (旦), Jing (净), Chou (丑).
Sheng (生): refer to men, divided into Laosheng (老生),Xiaosheng (小生),Wusheng (武生)
Dan (旦): refer to women, divided into Zhengdan (正旦), Laodan (老旦), Huadan (花旦), Wudan (武旦), Daomadan (刀马旦)
Jing (净): refer to painted-face role, know popularly as Hualian, divided into Zhengjing (正净), Fujing (副净), Wujing (武净), Maojing (毛净)
Chou (丑): refer to painted-face role, know popularly as Xiao hualian, divided into Wenchou (文丑), Wuchou (武丑), Nüchou (女丑)

Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colourful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera's characteristically sparse stage.

Stage settings are usually sparse

Performers use the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the plot of the production. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music.

The makeup or masks are traditional and have symbolic meaning

The music of Peking opera can be divided into the Xipi (西皮) and Erhuang (二黄) styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies, and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Peking opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life.

Peking opera was denounced as 'feudalistic' and 'bourgeois' during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, 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. These reforms, which include improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements, and performing new and original plays.

In the last year Morocco has relaxed visa restrictions for Chinese visitors which has resulted in an increasing number of Chinese tourists. This change has also probably been instrumental in the Fes Festival making Chinese involvement a major part of this year's programme.

See also: Fes Festival Highlight #1

The performance of the Beijing Opera will take place at 9pm on Saturday May 13th at Bab al Makina. Tickets are available HERE

Please note that the official site still has no English language programme, but the provisional programme is available here in English.

The View From Fez is a Fes Festival Media Partner


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