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Jinghu leads the way

Updated: 2013-10-11 10:18
By Sun Ye ( China Daily)

Peking Opera isn't only about its trademark singing, choreography and painted faces. The secret to the art lies in its small orchestra where jinghu (a Chinese bowed string instrument) is the lead. It conducts, improvises and has a beauty of its own.

Now, a show looking back at the history of this instrument is combining some of the best Peking Opera arias. The show doubles as a lesson about the 200-year-old art of Peking Opera, and will be staged at the Oriental Theater on Oct 15.

The performance, organized by the Beijing Jinghu Research Center in Beijing, will open with jinghu and Peking Opera in its nascent, simple form from the early 19th century, followed by the orchestra's gradual growth in variety and expressiveness in the past century. It will present Peking Opera's nine most famous arias and close with a rearranged chapter of the art in a most grandiose form, by partnering with the China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra.

Jinghu leads the way

Peking Opera master Zhao Baoxiu sings with the accompaniment of jinghu. Provided to China Daily

"You will see jinghu's development in the past 200 years, from flat and simple to becoming more solid, full and very expressive," says Yan Shouping, the jinghu master at Beijing Peking Opera House.

"The instrument has grown to have so much texture and various techniques now. Much more melodious, too," Yan, who has practiced the art for more than five decades says. "For audiences, it's worth paying attention to the players' moves and challenging skills, but the most trying part is the close partnership between the one who plays the instrument and the singer.

"If the singer has a sore throat, the jinghu player will improvise to give the singer an easier time. And if the singer is in the mood, the player can give them room to show off.

"To a certain extent, jinghu is the conductor of a Peking Opera piece, it leads the way.

"The chemistry between the two is the most important element. They depend on each other to complete a good show." Yan will perform Meihua at the one-night show.

"Now, the art of jinghu has blossomed and so many performers have come to establish their own characters," says Sun Yan, from the Beijing Jinghu Research Center. "If you follow the art closely, you can tell who's singing by the first few notes from the jinghu in the prelude."

At the show, the two-string instrument will lead the orchestra. There will be more than 20 excerpts from Peking Operas and tunes.

Jinghu leads the way

Jinghu leads the way

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