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Peking Opera
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Peking Opera Biography

Peking Opera is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China.

Peking Opera features four main types of performers. With their elaborate and colourful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilise the skills of speech, song, dance and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated, according to the beauty of their movements. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music.

With live musicians on the stage, the accompaniment for Peking Opera consists of a small ensemble of traditional Chinese melodic and percussion instruments. The lead melodic instrument is the Jing Hu, a small, high-pitched, two-string spike fiddle. The second is the circular bodied plucked lute, the Yue Qin. Percussion instruments include the Daluo, Xiaoluo and Naobo. The player of the Gu and Ban, a small high pitch drum and clapper, is the conductor of the entire ensemble.

The two main musical styles of Peking opera are Xi pi and Er huang, Xi pi is lively, vigorous and quick and is used to express an excited mood such as happiness, anger or agitation. Er huang is gentle, steady and deep and is used to express a subdued mood such as loss in deep thought, sorrow and melancholy.

The repertoire of Peking opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life.


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