To Chinese people, going to the theater to enjoy Peking Opera or other artistic performances is known as “seeing plays.” What is a “play” in the Chinese context? In Peking Opera, a “play” is not so much the story or plot but a world of images created onstage, a wonderful arena of harmony between sentiments and settings.
The “play” or “world of images” created by Peking Opera naturally relies on the plot provided by the script, and more importantly on the performance of the actors. The feature of the art of Peking Opera is “actors being at the center”. The plot of a story provides only the framework and background, while the charm is produced by the actor’s performances.
Singing is of utmost importance in the performance, because first of all, Peking Opera is a singing art. Any famous Peaking Opera boasts several wonderful arias that are well-known and popular with the audiences. The charm of the melodies usually embodies the sublime realm of the art of Peking Opera. Unable to appreciate the magic of Peking Opera arias, one could fail to enjoy the profound beauty of the art itself.
Acting and fighting mean that actors employ physical movements to express the emotions of the characters and the circumstances. Acting includes body movements and eye movements, solo dancing or group dancing, etc. Most of the dancing movements are from everyday life. Fighting is choreographed martial arts and acrobatics to depict fight or battle scenes. As the art of Peking Opera depends on movement to depict events, actors are given much room to perform on the stage. Acting and fighting serve the whole play but at the same time they are a beautiful art themselves in both form and skill.
The uniqueness of performances in Peking Opera lies in the fact that the singing, speaking, acting and fighting, all focus on one or two actors in the play. These performers used to be called “Jue’er”, which means famous actors or actresses. This is the biggest difference between Peking Opera and the other forms of performing arts in terms of aesthetic appreciation. The remark – Peking Opera is the art of performers – well describes its quintessence.
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