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Sunday, 22 September 2013 23:02

Beijing Opera at the Touhill: Huīhuáng de (translation: Impressive!)

Written by Laura Kyro
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I visited China a few years ago, but am sorry to say I saw none of any native Chinese theatrical arts while there. When I heard the Beijing Opera was coming to the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus the University of Missouri, I hoped to rectify my lack of exposure. I must say I came away enchanted and impressed.

Rather than an opera the nature of which we may be accustomed—a single story with a lot of singers—this was more a variety of acts in the nature of (as explained in their program), "a fusion of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing." The performers—sponsored by several different local and international organizations—hailed from several cities in the U.S.

The one and a half hour performance featured TU Linghui acting, singing, and dancing some ancient Chinese stories. LIU Chunnuan and WANG Fei used acrobatics and martial arts moves to tell other stories. They also showed deft skills with weapons and staffs. Several pieces of Chinese folk music were performed by a small orchestra playing traditional Chinese instruments. ZHANG Rui impressively and deftly balanced six spinning plates while simultaneously performing floor acrobatics, and also showed off her contortionist abilities by passing her entire body through a narrow tube and a small ring. One of the most impressive of the many special performers was HU Tong, a sweet and powerful soprano singer who nearly blew out the microphones.

Two of the most impressive aspects of the night were the beautiful costumes and the face painting. Colorful, detailed, ornate, and no doubt accurate to tradition, they added an extra something special to every performance.

I'm still sorry I hadn't seen some of these types of performances while I was in China, but I definitely feel I've now made good on experiencing some of these "huīhuáng de" art forms.

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