Culture\Music and Theater

Reinventing Peking Opera

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-10 07:57

Reinventing Peking Opera

[Photo provided to China Daily]

"The soft, smooth Kunqu Opera style contrasts with the powerful Peking Opera style, highlighting the personalities and conflict," says Li, who plays the emperor in the piece alongside Kunqu Opera performer Xu Sijia as Yang Guifei.

In The Lotus Lamp, in which an "army" of tigers prepares for battle, Li blends Peking Opera with contemporary dance, accompanied by a Western symphonic band and traditional Chinese percussion.

Li, who was born in Beijing, studied Peking Opera with his late grandfather, Li Guichun, who performed at the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) court, and his father.

Li studied lao sheng (older, male) roles and wu sheng (male martial arts) roles for Peking Opera at the Beijing Theater Arts School from age 10.

After graduation in 1969, he worked at the China Peking Opera Theater, now the China National Peking Opera Company, before moving to the United States with his family in the late 1980s.

Later, he even considered quitting acting, and opened an ice-cream shop in the US to make a living.

"But my father always reminded me of who I am and what I am good at. I think Peking Opera is in my DNA," says Li.

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