US tour marks Mei Lanfang anniversary
Mei Baojiu, one of China's most famous opera stars and the son at of opera legend Mei Lanfang, who toured the U.S. 90 years ago, is taking his family's tradition back to American soil.
The tour, by a troupe of nearly 90 singers, actors and musicians from Beijing Peking Opera Theater who will perform in New York City and Washington D.C., is timed to mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of China's greatest opera star, Mei Lanfang.
His 80-year-old son, Mei Baojiu, one of China's top opera artists, organized the program for the U.S. tour.
"In 1930, my father performed many shows in the United States, in New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. So if I'm going to do something in memory of my father, to celebrate his work, I must return to those cities," he said.
Mei Lanfang is credited with developing the tradition of men performing female roles in Peking Opera. He created a unique style known as the "Mei Lanfang School."
The performances includes five shorter plays, each featuring a major female character who would have been played by Mei Lanfang, and a full-length production. All of the plays were created by Mei Lanfang, who died in 1961 at age 66.
"There are two shows. The first one is specific to Mei Lanfang's work. And the other is a combined performance. There are five different parts altogether," said Li Enjie, president of Beijing Peking Opera Theater.
Peking Opera began developing at the end of the 18th century and was recognized as the national form of theater in the 19th century as it spread throughout China.
One hundred and twenty years later, Mei Baojiu says the spirit remains, with only minor updates.
"The heart of the performance, the work of the performer, is the soul of my father's art, and that continues to thrive. But we have brought the plays into the 21st century with lighting, with costume techniques and staging technology," he said.
Actress Lisa Lu, who appeared in "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Last Emperor," is Mei Lanfang's god-daughter, and she is excited about the performances.
"I'm so moved and so happy that this is happening. And I think his art should be seen by all the people in all the world. Especially since 84 years ago Mei Lanfang was here in New York City and was greatly, widely welcomed. So I hope his art will be continued to be shown here," she said.
The troupe will perform on August 23 and 24 at Lincoln Center before traveling to Washington for two performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
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