Opera – Chinese

Chinese OperaChinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE. There are numerous regional branches of Chinese opera, of which the Beijing opera (Jingju) is one of the most notable.

In the early years of the People’s Republic of China, the development of Beijing opera was encouraged; many new operas on historical and modern themes were written, and earlier operas continued to be performed. As a popular art form, opera has usually been the first of the arts to reflect changes in Chinese policy. In the mid-1950s, for example, it was the first to benefit under the Hundred Flowers Campaign, such as the birth of Jilin opera. Similarly, the attack in November 1965 on Beijing deputy mayor Wu Han and his historical play, Hai Rui Dismissed from Office, signaled the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, most opera troupes were disbanded, performers and scriptwriters were persecuted, and all operas were banned except the eight “model operas” that had been sanctioned by Jiang Qing and her associates. Western-style plays were condemned as “dead drama” and “poisonous weeds” and were not performed. After the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976, Beijing Opera enjoyed a revival and continued to be a very popular form of entertainment both in theaters and on television.

Following the Cultural Revolution, both older and new works reappeared. Revised and banned plays from China and abroad were reinstated in the national repertoire. Many of the new plays strained at the limits of creative freedom were alternately commended and condemned, depending on the political atmosphere. One of the most outspoken of the new breed of playwrights was Sha Yexin. His controversial play “The Imposter” which dealt harshly with the favoritism and perquisites accorded party members, was first produced in 1979. In early 1980 the play was roundly criticized by Secretary General Hu Yaobang – the first public intervention in the arts since the Cultural Revolution. In the campaign against bourgeois liberalism in 1981 and the anti-spiritual pollution campaign in 1983, Sha and his works were again criticized. Through it all Sha continued to write for the stage and to defend himself and his works in the press. In late 1985 Sha Yexin was accepted into the Chinese Communist Party and appointed head of the Shanghai People’s Art Theater, where he continued to produce controversial plays. Since then, he has again fallen into disfavour.

 

Chinese Opera – Wikipedia