Peking Opera struggling to survive in modern age

Updated: 2015-08-05 15:59


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Peking Opera struggling to survive in modern age

A student performs at China's first national Peking Opera competition for overseas college students in Beijing. Photos provided to China Daily

Peking Opera, the most well known of Chinese traditional cultures, is struggling to appeal to modern society. Although numerous reforms have been introduced in response to sagging audience numbers they have met with various levels of success.

Zhang Huoding, a promising and renowned Peking Opera artist, is keeping the art alive by remaining true to the spirit of the original, according to media reports. With her melodious voice and outstanding performances, she has attracted attention from not only elderly people but also a great number of younger patrons.

Film director Wang Zhengfang, writing in his Tencent column, has expressed support for Zhang's persistent attitude towards tradition and also criticizes the reforms and innovations introduced to the traditional art.

"It is now the biggest problem for traditional opera to keep a balance between income and expenditure. As well as in China, opera in Europe and the US is facing the same problem. The use of modern techniques in Peking Opera to satisfy contemporary audiences alone could undermine the traditional performing arts, and is definitely not the way out," Wang wrote.

Some hold an opposite view. Shang Changrong, now 75, a famous Peking opera performer, told that he supports the reforms. As an initiator in promoting the heritage of Peking Opera, he advocates reform to embrace young audiences. " Beijing Opera is not conservative and should be developed and innovated over time to make it more vivid and vibrant," said Shang.

As for the rise of Zhang, Yang Qianwu, chairman of the Beijing Drama Association said: "The wide popularity gained by her is only an individual case and cannot represent the status quo of Beijing Opera, which is dwindling over past decades. Only the prosperity of the daily performances can truly promote the whole market".