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Manuel

What's so great about Beijing opera?

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耳耳语语

I just saw a festival of 5 different styles of Chinese opera in Paris.

http://www.lemonfort.fr/agenda-programme/6eme-festival-des-operas-traditionnels-chinois

festivals_opera_2013_2.jpg

- I think the purpose of the music is to give rythm and colors to the movements and feelings of the characters. I perceived it a bit like music in video games.

- The only piece that bored me was one with a Communist Party theme. Without any humor at all and little empathy possible ("I am willing to have my bones broken for the Party...").

- But in all the other plays, there was always the omnipresence of wit and irony. Each character expresses his individuality with very precise gestures, singing and sometimes even some wushu. The source of interest is not how the plot will end, but how lively each character will be embodied. Like Lu said, "so stylized and artificial that in a way it becomes more real".

- It was amazing !  :D

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seannessman

I like to stress more about the lyrics and literary merits of Beijing Opera. Opera lyrics are a major source of quotations, as I have seen in Hong Lou Meng where characters quote everything from West Chamber to Peony Pavilion to Lu Zhishen (Water Margin). So I think understanding the plot and lyrics (librettos) is very important. 

 

For example, the first time I read the summary of Poeny Pavilion I thought it's idiotic. A girl went to a garden, dreamt of a guy, woke up and died broken hearted. How childish and exagerated that is !! But understanding the whole monologue when the girl awoken from the dream is great great. There are some phrases, comparisons, words which are so outlandish that they're beautiful... So that is my experience. 

 

Then again comes the music. I haven't graduated to the level where I can wholy enjoy the music for itself, like Mozart or Verdi or Wagner. I saw a docu which said the melody of Peony Pavillion (though it's a Kunqu) was so ahead of its time and unconventional. But how long can I spot the difference I don't know???

 

 I also like to know how the actors can remember a melody (it's freaking difficult). Did the Chinese have a special way of notations as the West?

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Michaelyus

There was 工尺 notation back in the day (note the pronunciation of 尺), but it has generally been superseded by the more-or-less functionally equivalent but typographically simpler 简谱 notation.

 

Of course, when you get further into the music you find that knowing the fixed/labelled melodies / programmatic tune (曲牌) and the aria types / melo-rhythmic motivic type (板腔) by name obviates the need for notation for most professional singers and instrumentalists (quite similar to the Indian raga tradition or even La Fol(l)ia in the Baroque). 

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Liss Marie
Hi Manuel maybe you can try graduating volume low to high

this exercise may help your ears get used to those singing and music sounds

"nails on a chalkboard"? I'm sure You will get used soon

or you can try first listening others Chinese operas (more soft) as  越剧 Yueju,  崑曲 Kunqu or  粤剧 cantonese opera 

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Ruben von Zwack

I have started to enjoy Kunqu lately. Next time I go to China, I hope I can see a performance.

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