Beijing Opera Lingge Sandie Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Culture
The magnificent costumes, the lasting and cadenced tunes, the exquisite and agile martial arts as well as the sonorous gongs and drums … All the elements of Beijing Opera grab the attention of audiences from China and abroad — this is the motivation for the Chinese opera performers to promote the "national quintessence" overseas.
After performances of Beijing Opera Lingge Sandie or The Trilogy of Ancient Women's Love Story, starring Han Yijia and other well-known performers in Beijing and Shanghai in July and June, the performance team is planning to kick off a tour to Japan, Singapore and China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) next year in a bid to boost traditional cultural exchanges in the post-pandemic era, the Global Times learnt in an exclusive interview with the team, Aaron Culture.
Craze of foreign fans
The shows in Tianchan Theater, Shanghai from June 9 to 11 and in Chang'an Grand Theater, Beijing from July 6 to 8 attracted loads of foreign audiences including those from Japan and France. They appeared to be super excited after the Beijing Opera performers made their curtain calls, the Global Times reporter saw in the Chang'an Grand Theater.
A Beijing-based Japanese audience member, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Global Times after enjoying the show that this was his first time seeing Beijing Opera. "The force of the background sounds and the acting of the actors precisely brought out the best in each other. That was overwhelming!"
"Whether in China or Japan, if there are such wonderful shows, I would like to go and enjoy them!" said the Japanese audience member when hearing about the performances in Tokyo.
In order for overseas audiences to better understand the performances, the opera team has translated the lines of the stories into Japanese and is preparing the translation in English, Qiu Jincheng, president of Aaron Culture, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview recently.
"We started the Japanese translation last year. In order to improve the translation level, we found experts on Lakugo (classical Japanese) to polish the translation. We also asked for the opinions of some Japanese scholars, and they all recognized and liked the translation," Qiu said.
"In addition, [when we start the show in Japan,] we'll launch promotion activities, and publicize the lines and stories in advance of the performances," Qiu added.
But he noted that most audiences have a rough understanding of the shows thanks to the music and the aesthetic experience, Qiu said. "Similarly, no one would worry whether they could understand lines when they enjoy Western operas sung in Italian," he said.
"Our goal is to make audiences become fans of Beijing Opera," Qiu said in an assured voice.
Qiu also said that Shuichi Akamatsu, ambassador and consul general of Japan in Shanghai, watched the show in Shanghai and excitedly clapped and cheered for the show.
Chinese and foreign audiences take photos of Beijing Opera performers after the show ends. Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Culture
Hope for warmer ties
"Japan is the country with the highest acceptance of Chinese culture. And we have a branch in Tokyo. The show series of Beijing Opera Lingge Sandie has natural advantages and popular support in Tokyo," Qiu said.
"People-to-people cultural exchanges will always bring vitality to state-to-state relations," Qiu noted.
The upcoming Beijing Opera shows in Tokyo can allow more Japanese people to understand and love Chinese culture and bring warmth to China-Japan relations, he added.
Marking the 45th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have begun to resume rapidly in the post-pandemic era, but at the same time Tokyo is becoming increasingly aggressive in countering Beijing, thus pushing relations to a "dangerous crossroads," Huang Xingyuan, China's representative director of the Japan-China Friendship Center, told the Global Times in a recent interview.
According to Huang, Japan's recent official poll results showed that compared with other age groups, Japan's "Generation Z" has the highest favorable rating for China, and young people have a stronger sense of closeness to China than older people.
If the young Japanese generations can be infected by the charm of Beijing Opera, they will get more interested in Chinese culture and Chinese language, which can increase the opportunities for mutual understanding and plant the seeds of peace and love between the two sides, Qiu said.
Apart from the scheduled performances in Tokyo next year, the Beijing Opera team also plan to launch Beijing Opera classes and recruit students in the capital of Japan in the hope that more Japanese residents can have a deeper understanding and stronger interest in Chinese culture, according to Qiu.
After enjoying the opera, Mai Maita, minister of information and culture of the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai, also said she hopes to increase the cultural exchanges and cooperation between China and Japan with the Beijing Opera team. She also invited the team to promote opera in Japanese campuses.
Beijing Opera Lingge Sandie Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Culture
Ambition to break into intl market
After the tour performances in Japan, Singapore and the Hong Kong SAR, the Beijing Opera team even has the ambition to win prizes in international festivals such as Festival d'Avignon in France and Edinburgh International Festival in the UK.
Citing the Italian opera classics known around the world, Qiu said "We Chinese also have to promote our own art worldwide."
A French audience member who enjoyed the performance of Lingge Sandie in Shanghai said that he had seen performances of Beijing Opera overseas, but he had never witnessed such a spectacle as the show in China.
The French audience member said the Beijing Opera team should break into the international market so that more French people can experience Chinese culture.
Beijing Opera performances are not often seen in famous international festivals. But if Chinese traditional art can be seen on the international stage, it would be a surprise for Chinese people and the wider international community, bringing more attention to Chinese culture, Qiu explained.
"This is a long-term plan and we have already set up a special group to see how it all works, including preparations for the performance clothes, equipment and multilingual translation of the lines," he noted.
"We believe the beauty of art is universal and transcends language, place and time," Qiu said.