Chinese and Western Operas: A Lecture with Demonstration
February 27, 2016
Ms. Wu Shuang, a Coloratura Soprano, Renowned Chinese Performing Artist, presented an excellent Confucius Salon to an audience of over one hundred hosted by the Confucius Institite at the University of Texas at Dallas on Feb. 27, 2016. Born in a family with a master dramatist father and an opera master mother, Ms. Wu Shuang is known as a “Wizard of Beijing.” She started to learn vocal music as a child, received an education in music and performance in the School of Music at Indiana University, and was a member of China’s Central Conservatory. She has performed in various countries and regions including the US, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and won several awards in top competitions in China and the US. She is also a talented writer and scholar, having published four collections of essays, and conducted in-depth research into Chinese and Western operas.
The lecture focused on a comparative study of Chinese and Western operas with vocal performance to highlight their distinctive characteristics. Sheng, Dan, Jing, Chou, the four major roles in Beijing Opera and other Chinese traditional Operas were demonstrated and explained through images and videos. The four greatest artists of Beijing Opera, Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Shang Xiaoyun, and Xun Huisheng were discussed and presented through Ms. Wu’s immitations of their performances. Mrs. Wu showed some typical vocal and performing patterns in Chinese opera, such as flower hands and techniques of the hand, the eye, the body and the gait. Chinese performing arts were juxtaposed with some Western performing arts like Ballet to lay bare both similarities and differences between the two traditions of arts.
The highlight of the Salon is Mrs. Wu’s live demonstration. She imitated Mei Lanfang’s “Farewell to my Concubine,” Cheng Yanqiu’s “Su-San Under Police Escort” and other classical masterpieces of the greatest artists in the history of Beijing Opera. Her audience were amazed by both her mastery of the subtle differences between the artists and her capacity in performing various schools of Chinese Opera.
In addition, Mrs. Wu presented her mother—Master Xin Fengxia’s art of Pingju, and her own performance as a Coloratura Soprano, which is an outcome of her devotion to the combination of Western and Chinese arts. It is an example of the fruitful communication between Chinese and Western culture.
The Salon attracted around one hundred lovers of Chinese Culture from local communities and the University of Texas at Dallas. It is another significant event hosted by the Confucius Institute to enhance cross-cultural communications and understandings between the two cultures.