Sunday, January 25, 2009

Surprising Jin Jing 2

Jin Jing is one of the very few Yueju actress I know who is able to sing 5 different styles effectively. Here are some clips of her in action:

Jin Jing in Bi-style xiaosheng (fourth in sequence).

Jin Jing in Lv-style

Jin Jing in Jin-style

Surprising Jin Jing

For those who frequently watch Yueju will definitely know this actress called Jin Jing. She is a Qi-styled huadan, and Qi-style singing features relatively narrow vocal range and less decorative touches. In fact, sometimes it is even thought that those who could not sing high notes will end up learning Qi-style. However, Jin Jing proved it wrong by being able to cross-sing other styles and even the relatively more demanding Xiju arias. Here are two clips of her, the first featuring her singing in Yuan-style that is even more authentic-sounding than any of Yuan Xuefen's (originator of Yuan-style singing) direct disciples, and the second features her singing Xiju opposite Huang Huijing.

For those who are clueless as to how Qi-style singing sounds like, here is Jin Jing in Qi-style singing:

D.I.Y. Hair Accessories

Haven't visited Daaron's blog for a long time and pleasantly surprised that he's now into making his own Chinese opera hair accessories. Well I like making them too, but apparently both of us have got our own sources of influence, so the kind we do are not quite the same. For Daaron, his hair accessories are more inspired by the more abstract Taiwanese style while mine are inspired by the more traditional style. Here're some of what I've done so far:

One of my first few creations. Inspiration was drawn from what Li Li wore for "The Birthday Banquet" when she performed in Singapore in 1986. As you can see, I was quite new to the art of hair accessories making, so the aesthetic sense is not there and you can even see wires wrapping around the base in an unsightly manner.

An improved version of the former, drawing a bit of inspiration from the Yueju-style slanted phoenix brooch.

Five-piece accessories experimented with sequins. The whole set consist of a central brooch (have to pin using hairpins), 2 side brooches and 2 floral pins with strands of beads (unfortunately 1 of the pins went missing)

Butterfly brooch made with mix of sequins and beads, inspired by what Li Li wore for Madam White Snake.

One of my most elaborate set, with one big central phoenix and 2 floral brooches with strands of beads.

Another elaborate set, but only 1 single piece. Looks a bit like street Teochew opera style.

A work-in-progress; hair accessories permantly fixed onto toupee made of wool.

A side phoenix made of sequins; originally planned to make it part of a complete set for "datou", but the rest of the elements are too difficult to reproduce, so this has become like a stand-alone piece.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reflections of the Red Mansion

Zhao Zhigang, one of the very few famous male Yueju performers in China, performed in a monologue, somewhat avant-garde like Yueju piece titled "Reflections of the Red Mansion" in 2006, and this show is what I'd like to share about in this post.

Unlike all other shows he had previously performed, Zhao Zhigang acted as himself, instead of any other characters in "Romance of the Red Mansion". So what's the link between himself and this classic opera? Well, the leading character of the "Romance of the Red Mansion", Jia Baoyu, grew up being one of the few men among womenfolk, and Zhao Zhigang himself is one of the very few male Yueju performers in the scene. This to him is a very big problem, and sometimes he even feels awkward. Hence, instead of trying to create a different perspective to the classic tale, this performance tells about the unknown pressure he had all these years as a male actor, and how he isn't very happy with the fact that almost all roles on stage are taken up by female actors.

I can understand his agony; compare him with other Yueju actresses in the market and one can easily see why he's feeling this way. Maybe some people will argue that his singing is too "effeminate" for their liking. Well, he may be sounded too "soft", but I believe it isn't his fault, since when an actor's mentor or peers are generally members of the opposite sex, one tends to pick up traits of them and incorporate in their own performance. Just like when I took vocal training with my troupe members in the past, I was also the only male student, and my coach (a female) commented that I was at a learning disadvantage because male and female anatomy is different and I had no one to take reference too. She also commented that it would have been better if I joined a class with more male students, or was taught by a male vocal coach. On another hand, if Zhao Zhigang is penalised for sounding too "effeminate", why is it that Xiao Ya, a female Yin-style actress (same mentor as Zhao Zhigang) remains highly popular and appears in almost every year's CCTV Spring Festival Gala? I think she sounded creepily feminine too, but it seems audience in general can accept that better.

Talent aside, female Yueju actresses generally are far more popular than Yueju actors, to a point that they're marginalised, and in some instances they are cast aside simply because audience prefer to see female actors taking on male roles. And it doesn't help by the fact that the concept of male and female actors to have equal performing opportunities have been implemented for quite a while now. Till then, like when performing "Romance of the Red Mansion", Zhao Zhigang is always the only real biological man on stage even though there were other male characters too. Therefore, who is to be blamed: is it the opera's fault, his own fault for choosing Yueju as his career, or the fault of gender-biased audience? I believe this is something all Chinese opera practitioners and fans to really ponder about.