For three years running our Senior School drama students have had the great opportunity to learn about Peking Opera - the quintessential Chinese dramatic tradition - from the Yuyin Peking Opera Theatre Group.
In years past, our students have visited the Yuyin Ge Peking Opera Theatre, an authentic Peking Opera venue out in Baoshan district. Unfortunately due to COVID that was not possible this year. However, we were lucky to have members of the troupe come to our Mei Lan Fang Theatre on 20 October to deliver a morning of Peking Opera experiential learning.
Yuyin performers introduced our students to the origins of Peking opera (京剧), the typical gestures used in the performance, as well as some of the common face paintings and their meanings, and the students had a chance to design their own face paintings.
Our students got a lot out of the visit.
"I really enjoyed the Beijing Opera workshop. I found the face painting and the performance routines very interesting and fun to do. I learnt a lot about the history of Beijing Opera and how it originated. I also found that learning the colors and their meanings were also very interesting." (Ian P, Y10)
The Yuyin performers presented the classic story of Farewell My Concubine including a short performance from the repertoire. As the teachers performed, the students were transported into the poignant love story of Xiang Yu and his concubine Yu Ji.
It was a coincidence not lost on our students that Farewell My Concubine is one of the classic plays of the Mei School of Qing Yi, written by the master of Peking Opera, Mei Lanfang after whom our theatre is named. Here is what some of the students had to say about the Farewell My Concubine:
“It was enlightening to hear about the plays that are performed in Beijing Opera. The stories and characters are both whimsical and larger than life.” (Amy C, Year 12)
"I thought that the Beijing Opera experience was fun. I enjoyed learning all the different aspects that go into the performances. It was interesting gaining insights into behind the scenes as well as the symbolism and history behind it." (Kaila Y, Y10)
The students' enthusiasm was piqued by the performance, and they eagerly raised their hands to join interactive part of the session where students learned sword-dance and horse-riding. Trying to master the moves themselves gave them a deep appreciation for the true mastery of the performers who have spent more or less their entire lifetimes mastering these moves.
"It was really interesting and engaging. I enjoyed it a lot. Everyone was involved and we did some physical practice which was really fun." (Anais L, Y10)
"The presentations were informative, the demonstrations and interactive workshops were exciting and it was really fun to watch our classmates try sword fighting and pretend to ride a horse." (Sherry D, Y10)
“I really appreciated the Yuyin teachers coming in and teaching us. They are highly skilled and I enjoyed having such a ‘hands on’ opportunity to explore Beijing Opera." (Sally Z, Year 12)
"I enjoyed learning about the intricate traditions of Beijing Opera, and I thought the different techniques and their links to Chinese history and culture were very interesting. I also liked having the the opportunity to practice some of the techniques, and I now have a deep appreciation for the skilfulness of Beijing Opera actors after experiencing how difficult the acting style is." (Coll M, Y10)
"I thought the Beijing Opera workshop day was a very educational and fun experience to be a part of. I enjoyed seeing all the different aspects and seeing how different cultures display their stories and history through Drama, particularly the meanings behind everything, especially in this ancient tradition." (Katie D, Y10)
Events such as the Yuyin masterclass are made possible through our Worldwise Events Series organised by Education in Motion, the education group to which we belong.