Bertrand had a “Zhang Huoding Week” at operabeijing.com, and he predicted there will be a “Jin Xiquan week” on Ear Candy.
The idea was tempting, but I decided to hold a “Tianjin week” instead, especially when I saw the sign: the first jingju related article that popped up today during my morning newspaper browsing was this Wang Ping interview below.
Jingju Theater of Tianjin is staging a three-day series in Binhu Theater titled “炫彩青春” – “Dazzling Colors of Youthfulness” – easy to guess it’s not about pushing seniors into the limelight this time. Wang Ping as “producer” was busy with guiding Tianjin’s youngest performers during the dress rehearsals, but he gave a short interview.
(02.28.) Tianjin audience liked all the shows, to see a few stage photos, click here, here and here.
My note in advance: sorry for the crappy English. Translating a foreign language to another is not easy, and Mr. Wang’s endless sentences didn’t ease my work. But I do hope it makes some sense, because he made some very good points.
Article: Tianjin Daily
36 young performers are involved in this project, the “oldest” is 34, the youngest is 19 years old. More then 90% of the young actors of our theater participate in the “big bootcamp”, junior performers have to cooperate as a team and support each other. Of course we organized similar training programs in the past, but this is the first time the productions are performed to “outsiders” too.
Young people rarely have the opportunity to star on stage in major roles, now they can show their qualities and they will be judged not only by experts, but the audience and the market too. In addition, we also can understand our performers better and discover talent.”
Jingju is a “jue’er¹ genre”, spectators do consider what’s the play, but consider even more who will perform? Maintaining the enchanting charm of jingju relies on continued tradition, one generation of performers replaces the other.
From the four great laosheng schools (Ma, Tan, Yang, Xi), Yang (Baosen) school is of Tianjin origin, we have many senior artists like Li Huiliang (厉慧良), Zhang Shilin (张世麟) and Yang Ronghuan (杨荣环), and many well known performers currently active on stage, like Yang Naipeng (杨乃彭), Deng Muwei (邓沐玮), Li Li (李莉), Kang Wansheng (康万生), Li Jingwen (李经文), Zhang Youlin (张幼麟) and so on, they all are indispensable in passing on Beijing Opera art.
Our generation should not forcefully take away the banner of art from their hands, thus confronting the artistic achievements established by older generations, that banner would fade in our hands anyways.
I think that to pass on Beijing Opera art, we should let the next generation of young actors to enter the stage immediately; we should focus on producing quality performers and quality theater pieces, raise the level of young artists, expand their influence and reputation.
So well said. Senior and junior performers should work together, and not against each other.
When training young people, it’s useful to organize them into groups depending on their level, Tianjin currently has five groups. Most experienced artists, CCTV Great Beijing Opera Contest gold medalists, postgraduate students are organized in one team, with members like the Plum Blossom Prize winner Wang Yan (王艳), Cheng school qingyi Lü Yang (吕洋), young laosheng Ling Ke (凌珂), Huang Qifeng (黄齐峰), Yan Hongyu (闫虹羽) etc.
Performers of the second team have similar achievements, they are just 4-5 years younger (of course it doesn’t necessarily mean their biological age), let’s mention Wang Jiaqing (王嘉庆), Li Hong (李宏), Wang Daxing (王大兴), Chen Ai (陈嫒), I think if you paste these names in the new and awesome Search box here and at operabeijing.com, you will get several hits.
Members of the third team are still pursuing their studies in some specialized field, Tianjin’s greatest pride of course is the Yang school laosheng-wusheng education. All these performers are already pretty established and steady.
The most talented young students are picked to form the fourth and fifth team, giving them the opportunity to advance and later study in the specialized and the postgraduate class.
In addition to the internal training system, Wang Ping believes that the best way to work out a team is to offer young people opportunity to perform on stage, with “real swords and real spears”.
Stage is the perfect exercise for a performer, he can only measure his own quality and position when standing in the limelight. Young artists rarely can step on stage, therefore at the time of our internal assessment, we decided to attach the most importance to providing assistance and guidance to them.
Currently all five of our rehearsal rooms are full to bursting, sometimes two plays are rehearsed in one room, the whole theater is filled with the atmosphere of enthusiasm.
Speaking from his own experience, he said:
A performers advancement is inseparable from the instructions of a great teacher. To make this show even more successful, we considered each performer’s individual characteristics, the distinguishing features of different schools, and invited famous masters from every part of the country to help our young actors and actresses. Regardless of their age, some elderly artists demonstrated postures personally, and gave directions line by line, move by move.
Besides learning art from them, junior performers simultaneously can observe the characters and behavior of senior artists.
¹ Ye Shaolan explains the meaning of the expression briefly here: “Back when Peking Opera was the national form of entertainment and Peking Opera performers were the darlings of the press, they had a name for being a star — they called you “juer”. Once you had become a “juer ”, you were worshipped by a devoted following who treated you the same way today’s movie fans treat their icons.”