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Peking Opera breaking barriers as it thrills fans

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-27 10:05

The audience applauded and shouted "Bravo!" several times during Sarah Xie's rendition of the aria Running Water from the classic Peking Opera Susan's Redemption.

Hundreds of opera lovers gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland, Sunday afternoon for the DC Beauty of Beijing Opera Gala 2017, where they enjoyed performances from various Peking Opera classics.

Peking Opera, a classical Chinese art form that combines music, vocals, drama, dance, martial arts and acrobatics, arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and stylized by the mid-19th century.

Washington-based DC Beauty of Beijing Opera (DCBBO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of Peking Opera while entertaining the audience and promoting cultural exchange through educationally oriented performances and workshops.

DCBBO was founded by five professional women in 2013. "We wanted to go beyond entertaining ourselves or a small crowd," said Louisa Huang, one of the founders. "We really put an effort into translating, event planning and breaking the language and cultural barriers. Over the years, we've reached around 5,000 non-Chinese viewers."

At the gala, Huang played Qin Xianglian, a Song Dynasty character who is betrayed by her husband, in the opera Humanity and Justice. It was followed by another famous piece, Drunken Beauty.

DCBBO picked the pieces to present a comprehensive variety of selections that covered as many components of Peking Opera as possible, such as the ribbon dance in The Flower Fairy and the dramatic acting of Humanity and Justice.

"One of the things we noticed was how most of the characters manipulate their silk sleeves during the show," said Rudy Angus, a member of the audience. "It was very interesting to us, compared to most Western dance and performances."

The audience was also treated to a few special performances, including Fishing & Revenge, sung by Sarah Xie's 87-year-old father, Xie Rongzhang, and accompanied by his grandson Issac Xie.

"It was amazing," said Nikita MacRall, a first-timer to a Peking Opera performance. "It's definitely something we would do again: a lot of beautiful costumes, and gestures and performances, and we definitely feel the passion of the performers."

In addition to performances, DCBBO gives presentations and demonstrations at a number of schools. As of last year they offer classes in collaboration with the Confucius Institute US Center.

Six of the students who graduated a week ago from spring classes participated in the opening watersleeve dance.

One of the six, Brooke Miller, 16, attended the workshop out of her passion for Chinese and opera.

"There's a grace to the watersleeve. It's very beautiful when you see it up on the stage," Miller said. "It was a lot of fun and I think I've learned a lot from the classes."

Miller intends to continue learning about Peking Opera and wants to major in Chinese when she goes to college.

China Daily

Yuan Yuan in Silver Spring contributed to the story.

Peking Opera breaking barriers as it thrills fans

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