Peking Opera master Mei Baojiu dies at 82

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-04-26 02:35:34

Peking Opera master Mei Baojiu dies at 82

Mei Baojiu performs in Farewell My Concubine in 2010. ZHANG WEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Peking Opera master Mei Baojiu died in Beijing on Monday at age 82. He had been hospitalized from March 31 after falling into a coma following a bronchial spasm.

Mei Baojiu was the ninth son of Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), who is considered the most outstanding Peking Opera artist of all time and is credited with bringing Peking Opera to the United States and Europe in the 1930s.

Like his father, Mei Baojiu performed as a nan dan (a man playing a female role) — a Peking Opera practice forged at a time when women were forbidden to take to the stage.

Nan dan's heyday was in the first half of the 20th century, when Mei Lanfang, Shang Xiaoyun (1900-76), Cheng Yanqiu (1904-58) and Xun Huisheng (1900-68) — dubbed the Four Great Dan — established the four Dan styles of Mei, Shang, Cheng and Xun.

With his rendition of classic Peking Opera pieces, such as Farewell My Concubine, The Drunken Beauty and Mu Guiying in Command, Mei Baojiu was also Mei Lanfang's only child who performed as a nan dan.

Born in Shanghai in 1934, Mei Baojiu started learning Peking Opera at 10 with Wang Youqing. He also learned Kunqu Opera with Zhu Chuanming, one of the best-known performers of the art. Mei Lanfang taught his son himself when he took a break from his tour.

When he was 13, Mei Baojiu made his stage debut in Shanghai before starting to tour with his father's Mei Lanfang Peking Opera Troupe when he was 16. Mei Baojiu became head of the troupe after his father died in 1961.

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