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Beijing Opera

beijing-opera01Beijing Opera, which originated in the late 18th century, is a synthesis of music, dance, art and acrobatics. It is the most influential and representative of all operas in China. Peking opera is a national treasure with a history of 200 years.

The biggest kind of opera in China, its richness of repertoire, great number of artists, performance, and profound influence are incomparable in China. Peking Opera can be divided into "civil" pieces characterized by singing, and "martial" ones featuring acrobatics and stunts. Some operas are a combination of both. The operatic dialogues and monologues are recited in Beijing dialect, and some of the words are pronounced in a special fashion, unique to the opera.beijing-opera02

Beijing opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize 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. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the plot of the production.[The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music. The music of Beijing opera can be divided into the Xipi and Erhuang styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies, and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Beijing opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life.

In recent years, Beijing opera has attempted numerous reforms in response to sagging audience numbers. These reforms, which include improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements, and performing new and original plays, have met with mixed success. Some Western works have been adopted as new plays, but a lack of funding and an adverse political climate have left Beijing opera's fate uncertain as the form enters the 21st century.