Facebook Twitter 新浪微博 google plus Instagram YouTube Friday 4 September 2015

"Zhang Huoding Phenomenon" Comes to New York

By Li Chenxi (CRI Online)    11:57, September 04, 2015

Peking Opera artist Zhang Huoding performs during the closing ceremony of the 15th Meet in Beijing Arts Festival at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, capital of China on May 28, 2015. [Photo: Xinhua]

Peking Opera megastar Zhang Huoding has made her debut in New York.

Her shows, sold-out here in China on a regular basis, are doing the same in 'The Big Apple.'

Is the 200-year-old Peking Opera losing its popularity in China?

Well, don't tell that to the throngs of people who are willing to pay a thousand US dollars to buy a pair of sold-out tickets on the black market.

This is the allure of Zhang Huoding, one of China's biggest Peking Opera stars.

The 44-year-old has a huge fan base, particularly among the younger generation.

She's made her New York debut at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

Over a dozen of her fans have followed her here from China for the two performances.


Her New York debut, 'The Legend of the White Snake' tells a love story between a young woman, said to have the spirit of a white snake, and a kind-hearted young man.

Their love and marriage are challenged by a Buddhist monk, who is meant to represent the conservative power in society.

Zhang Huoding says her performance came from something she tried 15-years ago.

"The Legend of the White Snake is not part of the Cheng School. But I started to try this score with the vocal methods and moves from the Cheng School in 2000. The vocal tones and performing style are quite different."

The Cheng School is one of the four major Peking Opera performance styles that emerged in the early 20th century.

This is considered the renaissance of Peking Opera.

After graduating from an opera school in Tianjin in 1989, Zhang Huoding began training under a Peking Opera master who studied the works of Cheng Yanqiu, the founder of the style she's adopted.

Zhang herself is very soft-spoken, rarely granting interviews.

She lives in Beijing with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter.

She spends most of her time trying to perfect her craft, as well as teach at the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts.

Academy Director Ba Tu says her pursuit of Cheng-style is an inspiration to those around her.

"We give full-respect to the traditions of the Cheng School. And we respect her attempt to follow the traditional ways. She pursues selflessness and shows respect to the masters at a time when traditional culture is rapidly being marginalized. She has never made changes to her style, despite a culture now which prefers a 'fast-food' mentality."

One of Zhang's colleagues, opera professor Fu Jin, says her dedication to the classic art-form is something which will help keep it alive.

"We've made too many changes to try to save Peking Opera. That is a mistake. I think the only way to preserve the originality of the shows, and to preserve the art itself, is to showcase the beauty of tradition."

Zhang Huoding is going to be one of the subjects of a 10-episode documentary recording several active Peking Opera performers of her generation.

Those putting together the documentary are also hoping to preserve a slice of Peking Opera, which UNESCO has inscribed in its Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Ruiqi,Yao Chun)

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