What a beauty!

15:54, January 05, 2010      

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Li Yugang is neither a Peking Opera actor who plays female roles; nor is he a countertenor. But the 31-year-old is equally adept at playing both roles on stage.

Ever since he was named second runner-up in CCTV's popular talent show Star Boulevard in 2006, Li has taken his unique cross-dressing performances across the country, besides an acclaimed performance at the Sydney Opera House last July. From Jan 8 to 10, he will once again enthrall audiences with three shows at the Poly Theater in Beijing.

Li will sing the Kunqu Opera aria The Interrupted Dream selected from The Peony Pavilion to start the two-hour show. It is one of the most well-known arias sung by the leading female role Du Liniang in the play.

He will follow this up by with a portrayal of the "Four Beauties" of ancient China.

Li's performance will be accompanied by such old instruments as the guqin (the plucked seven-stringed zither), guzheng, (16-26 stringed zither with movable bridges), and xiao (vertical end-blown flute).

"The show will combine Chinese opera, folk music, pop music and dance. It's hard to define. I will try to demonstrate the charm, beauty and uniquely human qualities of the 'Four Beauties'," he adds.

Born in July 1978 in a remote small village of Northeast China's Jilin province, Li inherited his talent for singing and performing from his mother, an errenzhuan (a folk dance form native to Northeast China) actress.

In 1996, he was admitted to a local performing arts school but one year later he had to drop out because the family could not afford the fees.

Carrying just his dream to perform on a big stage, Li left his hometown to make a living, singing at pubs in Changchun and Xi'an. Meanwhile, he trained under vocal coach Ma Pingyi and took lessons from legendary Peking Opera artist Mei Lanfang's disciples, Zhang Qiuhua and Hu Wenge in singing the female roles.

In 2004, a friend introduced him to Mao Geping, a well-known television make-up man. Transformed dramatically by Mao into a pretty "woman", Li decided to develop his career as a cross-dressing performer.

To achieve this, he not only continued with his vocal training but also turned to the renowned choreographer/dancer Shen Peiyi to learn to dance like a woman.

For years he continued to struggle to fight the stigma attached to men playing female roles, until his award-winning performance in Star Boulevard.

Captivating audiences with his beauty and grace, he became a national star overnight.

Source: China Daily
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