Western opera in Chinese Redirected from Chinese contemporary classical opera

Chinese contemporary classical opera (Chinese: 当今古典歌剧; dāngjīn gŭdiăn gējù; "contemporary classical opera") is a musical art form drawing on western opera traditions - distinct from modern developments of traditional Chinese opera.[1][2]

One of the first western-style operas was The White Haired Girl (1940).[3][4][5] Chinese-language western-style opera is to be distinguished the Revolutionary operas of the Cultural Revolution such as Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy which were mainly an adaption of Peking opera with socialist text and subjects, with some influence from Soviet musical theatre.[6][7][8] The 1950s-70s saw several patriotic socialist operas, such as Red Guards on Honghu Lake (1956). Modern operas with a continuation of "realist" socialist elements include A Village Teacher (2009).

China has several separate geju companies under the Ministry of Culture, parallel with the traditional Chinese opera companies. The most prestigious are the Beijing-based central geju-yuan China National Opera House troupe (CNOH), and the Shanghai-based Shanghai Opera House company. In each case the term "Opera House," geju-yuan, refers to the institute or company, not to a fixed building or theatre. The street addresses of both companies are merely administrative offices and rehearsal rooms. Other notable geju companies around China include the Liaoning geju yuan, based in Shenyang and others. The status of geju has been boosted by availability of new world-class venues such as the China's National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing ("The Big Egg" on Tiananmen Square East) and the new Shanghai Grand Theatre. Since its opening in 2009 CHNCPA has staged operas such as Xi Shi and A Village Teacher in 2009, The Chinese Orphan in 2011, and the folk-opera The Ballad of Canal in 2012.[9] The Shanghai Grand Theatre has similarly staged Chinese-language geju of the Shanghai Opera House company along with Italian, French and German-language operas.

List of works

The following includes some operas which are considered closer to the Chinese opera traditional model than geju or western opera.

Experimental period, 1945-1956

After founding of the PRC, 1949:

  • 1954 - Chen Zi, Mao Yuan and Ge Guangrui: Liu Hulan 《刘胡兰》 Central Experimental Xin-geju Academy, Beijing
  • - Ma Ke: Xiao'erhei jiehun
  • 1955 - Luo Zongxian: Caoyuan zhi ge 《草原之歌》 "Song of the Prairies"

Second wave, 1956-1966

A second wave followed National Music Week, 1956, which lasted till the last geju Ayiguli in 1966 on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.[10]

  • 1956 - Chen Zi and Liang Kexiang: Spring Blossoms Yingchunhua kaile (libretto by Lu Cang, Wang Lie)
  • 1956 - Du Yu: Mongolian themed folk opera The Gada plum blossoms based on the Mongolian folk song Gada meilin
  • 1958 - Zhang Rui (composer): Rosy Clouds Hong xia (libretto by Shi Han)
  • 1958 - Shu Tiemin and Ceng Fangke: The Red-cloud Cliff Hongyun ya (libretto by Liang Shangquan, Lu Peng, Jiang Shengtao, Su Mei)
  • 1958 - Zhang Dinghe: The Tale of Huai Yin Huai Yin ji (libretto by Lu Su, Huang Cengjiu, Guan Taiping)
  • 1959 - Zhang Jing'an: Honghu Chiweidui "Red Guards of Lake Hong Hu", Wuhan
  • 1959 - Shi Lemeng: Two Women of the Red Army Liangge nv hongjun (libretto by Chen Qitong)
  • 1959 - Zhuang Ying and Lu Ming: Keshan hong ri "Red Sun over Mount Ke" PLA Opera Troupe
  • 1960 - Wang Xiren and Hu Shiping: Hong Shanhu "Red Coral" libretto by Zhao Zhong, PLA Opera Troupe - also filmed by Wang Shaoyan director of the film Red Coral (1961)
  • 1960 - Chen Zi and Du Yu: Dou E Yuan based on the play The Grievances of Dou E, also known as "Snow in Summer"
  • 1960 - Zhang Dinghe and Du Yu: Doushi Ting "The Poem Contest Pavilion"
  • 1961 - Chen Zi and Du Yu: Chun Lei "Spring Thunder"
  • 1962 - Zheng Lucheng: Longing for Husband Cloud (libretto by Xu Jiarui)[11]
  • 1962 - Collective work: Liu Sanjie, filmed as "Third Sister Liu" the same year.
  • 1964 - Ge Guangrui: Zi you houlai ren "We have our own successors"
  • 1964 - Zhang Yu (composer): Red Plum-Blossom Ridge Hongmei Ling, film version 1965
  • 1964 - Chen Zi: Chunfeng yangliu "Willows in the spring breeze"
  • 1964 - Yang Ming (composer) and Jiang Chunyang: Jiang Jie "Sister Jiang" - libretto by Yan Su[12]
  • 1965 - Du Yu: Ren huan ma jiao "A busy country scene"
  • 1966 - Shi Fu and Wusi Manjiang: Ayiguli
  • 1966 - Mao Yuan and Ma Fei: Nanhai Changcheng "The Great Wall of the South Seas"

1966-1976 Cultural Revolution

1977 onward


Tenor William Wu (吴文修) directed 《万里长城》The Great Wall with music by Yang Yao-chang (楊耀章) and a libretto by Pi Kuo (碧果). Premiered by the Taiwan Metropolitan Opera (首都歌劇團) 1993, cross-straits production 1995. [18]


  1. ^ Edward Davis, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, 2005, p. 307: "... and to Western-style opera, including those by Chinese composers. In contrasts to Xiqu (sung drama) which groups indigenous musical dramatic traditions like Peking opera, Geju is seen as more squarely focused on singing, while the other ..."
  2. ^ James R. Brandon The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre, 1997, p. 52 "Geju (song drama) - In broad usage geju can include Western operas. Usually it refers to modern opera, created under CCP influence, that combines Chinese and Western techniques. The orchestra contains mainly Western instruments, with ..."
  3. ^ World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia/ Pacific, p. 140 Series Rubin - 1998 "Western-style opera (also known as High Opera) exists alongside the many Beijing Opera groups. The Central ... Operas of note by Chinese composers include A Girl With White Hair written in the 1940s, Red Squad in Hong Hu and Jiang Jie."
  4. ^ Zicheng Hong, A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature, 2007, p. 227: "Written in the early 1940s, for a long time The White-Haired Girl was considered a model of new western-style opera in China."
  5. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women - Volume 2 - Page 145 Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles - 2003 "... of the PRC, Zheng Lücheng was active in his work as a composer; he wrote the music for the Western-style opera Cloud Gazing."
  6. ^ Tim Doling -Visiting Arts regional profile: Asia Pacific arts directory - Page 25 1996 "'Song drama' or geju is a western-style opera originally developed under communist sponsorship by the CCP's ...
  7. ^ Asian theatre journal Page 91 Asian Theatre Program (University and College Theatre Association) - 1984 "I found that on any given day, the newspapers would show at least twenty performances of Beijing opera, regional ... drama productions, 76 were Western-style opera productions (predominantly operas written by Chinese composers"
  8. ^ Free China review - Volume 45 Page 25 1995 "October: The National Central Ballet of Beijing becomes the first internationally recognized mainland group to appear in Taiwan; the ... 1994 January: Mainland composer Zhao Jiping ... June: Musicians from Taiwan and the mainland team up for a major Western-style opera production in Taiwan, The Great Wall.
  9. ^ NCPA Original Opera - The Ballad of Canal Will Debut Archived 2012-06-29 at the Wayback Machine 21 Jun 2012 "Since the opening four years ago, NCPA has been insisting on producing one or two original operas each year, Xi Shi and A Village Teacher in 2009, The Chinese Orphan in 2011, and the oncoming The Ballad of Canal in June this year, ..."
  10. ^ A Critical History of New Music in China - Page 345 Jingzhi Liu, Caroline Mason - 2010 - Aperçu Indeed, between the National Music Week in 1956 and the eve of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, a second wave of operas was created, and even more works were staged, including Huai Yin ji [A record of Huai Yin] by Zhang Dinghe; Yingchunhua kai le [The winter jasmine has bloomed] by Chen Zi and Liang Kexiang; Hong xia [Rosy clouds] by Zhang Rui; Liangge nü hongjun [Two female soldiers in the Red Army] by Shi Yuemeng;
  11. ^ New music in the Orient: essays on composition in Asia since World ... - Page 197 Harrison Ryker - 1991 .
  12. ^ A Critical History of New Music in China - Page 346 C. C. Liu - 2010 "... Jiang jie [Sister Jiang] by Yang Ming and Jiang Chunyang; Hong shanhu [Red coral] by Wang Xiren and Hu Shiping; ... and 1964, respectively) have been described as “representing the highest achievements in Chinese opera during the
  13. ^ New music in the Orient: essays on composition in Asia since World War II Harrison Ryker - 1991 "The Hundredth Bride (libretto by Hu Xianting, Xu Xueda and Yang Shusheng; music by Wang Shiguang and Cai Kexiang) has its sources in the folklore of the Xinjiang region. It praises the legendary figure Afanti, who curbs the violent and ..."
  14. ^ Robert H. Cowden Opera Companies of the World: Selected Profiles 1992 - Page 44 "Flower-Guardian (1979), Peng Dehuai Sits on the Sedan Chair (1980), The Hundredth Bride (1981), The Youth of Today (1982), The Wedding Sonata (1983), and The Homeland (1984) are all examples of contemporary Chinese opera."
  15. ^ Shanghai Opera "Mourning" (Chinese) 歌剧名篇 - 伤逝
  16. ^ 歌剧名篇 > 国内 Archived April 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine " 白毛女, 苍原, 芳草心, 洪湖赤卫队, 江姐, 雷雨, 伤逝, 原野 "
  17. ^ Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture - Page 420 Edward L. Davis - 2012 "Jin Xiang's style is characterized by a particular sensibility for musical colouring. His opera The Savage Land (Yuanye, 1987) features a Chinese-style verismo, reminiscent of Russian opera but at the same time permuted by distinctly Chinese ..."
  18. ^ Republic of China Yearbook 1999 - Page 366 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group - 2000 "And the Taiwan Metropolitan Opera has introduced local audiences to such works as Madame Butterfly. Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. One of its biggest sensations has been The Great Wall, a Western-style opera sung in Chinese and telling a Chinese story, performed in 1993. Wu is working on a second historical Chinese opera, based on the story of Liao Tien-ting..."

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