Aworld-famous opera group, Mei Lanfang Beijing Opera Troupe, visited CSUN Tuesday to give a special workshop for students and faculty to enhance the cultural exchange between the United States and China.
‘ The workshop started at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theater in Nordhoff Hall with a speech and a brief introduction of Mei Lanfang Beijing Opera by Mei Baojiu, director of the troupe. ‘It is a great pleasure for me to be here today at a famous university, to meet all of you guys, and to introduce our performing arts,’ Mei said. ‘Seventy-eight years ago, my father led Beijing opera to visit the United States for the first time in the history.’
The troupe was established in 1922 by the Beijing opera legend Mei Langfan, the father of Mei Baojiu. He was the first to bring Beijing Opera to the rest of the world and visited many countries such as Japan, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. during his life.
The troupe has been passed down from father to son, and Mei Lanfang Beijing Opera is the most famous and the only national class performing group named in China now. With more than 80 years history, the troupe has successfully toured all over the world and had great cultural exchanges with them.
‘Chinese opera is another kind of field for department students,’ said Ron Popenhagen, director and performance coach in the theatre department.
Beijing opera combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics and it is not a Beijing Opera if one of these elements are lost, according to Mei.
The biggest difference between Beijing and Western operas is inclusion of martial arts. Beijing opera combines Kung Fu and mime in their performance and uses traditional Chinese costumes and facial painting.
More than 100 audiences at the Studio Theatre were entertained and surprised by the unique performance and costumes.
‘This was my first time seeing Beijing Opera, and I thought it was fascinating,’ said Douglas Cowie, 21, a senior theatre major. ‘Although I am not very familiar with Western opera either, the actor’s vocals and movement were extremely embellished in Beijing opera and ultimately led to a unique experience.’
Beibei Wu, international student from China who is the president of Chinese Student Association, mentioned that it is rare opportunity to see Mei Lanfang Beijing Opera Troupe, which performed at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood last weekend, in such an intimate venue like the university’s own department theater.
‘They are first-class performers (and) very, very popular and famous, at least in China,’ said Wu. ‘I don’t know much about Western opera, but Beijing opera is very different and special as you saw.’
‘It was a very good experience of being able to talk to the (performers), see the people, work up theatre, costume, and make up,’ said Popenhagen. ‘It was a very rare opportunity to have that kind of proximity to the performers.’