Traditional opera stars open culture festival

Experts versed in traditional skills are demonstrating their art during a week of performances and lectures in Yangpu District. 
Traditional opera stars open culture festival
Zhu Deqing / Ti Gong

Young performers present a classic Peking Opera aria at the Yangpu District Children's Palace on Monday.

Masters in traditional Chinese opera and heritage skills are giving free performances and lectures at a weeklong cultural festival which opened in Yangpu District on Monday.

Renowned exponents of Peking, Kunqu, Huju, Yueju, Yangju and Huaiju operas and pingtan storytelling were greeted by an enthusiastic audience as they took to the stage at the Yangpu Children's Palace to mark the beginning of the cultural week.

The performers included Peking Opera artist Shi Yihong and Kunqu Opera actress Zhang Jingxian. Their short performances of classic arias brought overwhelming cheers from the audience.

Despite two recent heart operations, Zhao Kaisheng, 85, China's top pingtan artist, said he was delighted to be able to promote the traditional art to the public.

"We have few chances to watch performances of so many heavyweight artists in a single show," said an audience member surnamed Zhao. "We just wish the performances could be longer in the future."

In addition to performing, the artistes will also give lectures to promote traditional opera at universities in Yangpu through Sunday.

An Ping, a senior Peking Opera artiste, will give a lecture on how to appreciate the art form known as the quintessence of Chinese culture at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology on Wednesday.

Artistes with the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe will perform while explaining the opera at Tongji University also on Wednesday. Reservations are required through WeChat account Yangpu Culture (yangpuwenhua).

Traditional opera stars open culture festival
Wu Haiping

Famous Peking Opera artist Shi Yihong performs at the opening session of the Yangpu festival. 

Traditional opera stars open culture festival
Wu Haiping

Yangju Opera artists perform at the opening session that marked the beginning of a week of cultural performances and lectures in Yangpu District.

The Yangpu District government has been collaborating with local opera troupes to present these traditional shows to communities and campuses, said Yang Yinyu, director of the Yangpu culture and tourism bureau. The program has attracted over 200,000 audience members at 400 performances since it began in 2007. It will be promoted citywide during the festival.

Though most of the audience were senior citizens, young performers demonstrated how traditional opera skills were being handed down. Five girls aged around 7 performed a classic Peking Opera aria to rapturous applause. 

They had been taught by Zhou Yanping, a local Peking Opera artist and apprentice of Mei Baojiu (1934-2016), a master and also son of world-renowned opera master Mei Lanfang (1894-1961).

Meanwhile, the city's intangible cultural heritage skills, such as wooden sculpture, paper-cutting, metal forging and puppet shows, will be presented to the public. 

Traditional skills related to Friday's Dragon Boat Festival will be highlighted during the week. Visitors will be able to learn how to make dragon lanterns and sachets at community activity centers across Yangpu.

"I'd like to promote Shanghai paper-cutting which has been eclipsed among all kinds of paper-cutting genres nationwide," said Zheng Shulin, an inheritor of the city's listed paper-cutting skill.

Shanghai-style paper-cutting is different from other schools in its fast speed and special singing and storytelling performances while clipping, said Zheng. The skill originated from local street artists and peddlers making a living from it, he added.

Li Jiahua, 71, a master of Peking Opera facial makeup, aims to promote the traditional skill among the younger generation.

"Nowadays, foreigners show more interest in the heritage skills that involve Chinese history and culture than Chinese people," Li said. He will showcase the skill and interact with audiences at the Yangpu culture bureau and Tongji University during the week.

Li has also started classes at local elementary and middle schools to teach the painting skill that he inherited from his father, a Peking Opera fan. He has had 16 apprentices who are also promoting the listed heritage skill.

Traditional opera stars open culture festival
Zhu Deqing

Zhao Kaisheng (left), 85, China's top pingtan artist, performs at the opening session of the heritage culture festival in Yangpu.

Traditional opera stars open culture festival
Wu Haiping / Ti Gong

An audience member records performances at the opening session of the weeklong heritage culture fesitival in Yangpu.

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