Chinese Jingju Opera Peony Pavilion Jingju Opera: Structure and Character Roles
Four -Part Framework to the Narrative Structure:
1. Introduction of each of the characters as the plot unfolds.
2. The main plot and several sub-plots evolve and intertwine leading to the interaction of characters and to conflict. A dramatic event near the end of this
part forces the characters to separate from each other as the plot moves towards its first climax.
3. The plot further thickens as it moves toward bringing the characters back together for a dramatic conclusion.
4. This part contains a scene of celebration and pageantry called du tuanyuan or the “grand reunion.
Four Main Scene Types:
1. Narrative: meant to develop the main plot.
2. Lyrical: involves the hero and heroine singing many arias
3. Action: involves combat and acrobatics.
4. Interlude: short, consisting of a few arias.
Five Categories of Actors:
1. Sheng: male role
2. Dan: female role
3. Jing: painted face role
4. Mo: subsidiary male role
5. Chou: comic role
JingjuOpera: Modes of Expression
Singing and Speech:
• Actors utilize a range of different modes of vocal production, from melismatic singing to the declaration of poems in everyday conversational speech.
• The style of speech employed by each actor is determined by their character’s social class.
• Upper-Class characters use the technique of Heightened speech, which takes the musical pitches already existing in Chinese languages and magnifies them.
This is done by increasing the pitch range in both ascending and descending sets of verbal syllables. In addition, syllables are given a longer duration than
would be found in everyday speech.
• Lower Class characters use the regular pitch differentials and rhythms of everyday speech.
• The Jinghu fiddle cues the actors in advance of each and every song sung in the opera. The fiddle also follows the actor’s phrasing as he or she sings. In
this way, the entire orchestra (which follows the jinghu) remains completely in sync with the expression of the actors. [Hint: One way you can tell if an upper-class character is singing or using heightened speech is by the presence or absence of the Jinghu fiddle.]
Acting a Fighting:
• This area covers a gamut extending from facial expressions to postures, gestures, mime, as well as choreographed fighting and acrobatics.
• Upper-Class characters: wear more elaborate clothing which helps them to maintain a sense of refinement in their interactions with one another. For example, both the male and female lead characters have costumes that feature extra-long sleeves. They use these to cover their hands when coming in contact with each other so that they never touch skin-to-skin.
• Lower Class characters: wear regular clothing and make contact with each other without the necessity of covered hands.
• All facial expressions: are prescribed depending upon the specific character being played. Notice the subtlety and range of emotional expression in the
faces of the male and female lead in comparison to their servants.
Peony Pavilion (origins and performance)
• Based upon a play by Tang Xianzu, written during the Ming Dynasty, but set in the last days of the Song Dynasty.
Chinese Jingju Opera Peony Pavilion Performance
• First Performed in 1598.
• The plot focuses upon a love story between a young woman, Du Liniang, and a scholar, Liu Mengmei.
• The full opera has 55 scenes and takes over 20 hours to perform. First full performance in 300 years took place in New York City in 1999.
• Version watched in class: 1999 performance at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NYC.
Peony Pavilion Plot (Story)
• On a beautiful spring day, Du Liniang’s personal servant convinces her to take a walk in the Peony Garden.
• Du Liniang falls asleep in the garden and has a dream.
• In her dream, she meets the young scholar, Liu Mengmei, who she has never met before in person.
• Liu’s bold advances start off a flaming romance between the two, and it flourishes rapidly.
• Upon awakening, Du Liniang becomes completely obsessed with her dream love affair. Unable to recover from her fixation, she wastes away and dies.
• The President of the Underworld decides that a marriage between Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei is predestined. He sends Du back to the earthly realm where she appears to Liu in his dreams.
• One day Liu Mengmei comes upon the garden where Du Liniang had her dream. It is there that he realizes that the woman in his dreams is the daughter of Du
• Liu Mengmei exhumes Du Liniang’s body and she comes back to life.
• Liu informs Du Bao of his daughter’s resurrection, but Du Bao reacts by having Liu arrested for being an imposter and for grave robbing.
• Liu narrowly escapes death by torture when officials discover that he obtained the highest score on the Imperial Examination. The Emperor personally
pardons the young scholar, Liu Mengmei.
ASSIGNMENT – to be developed into an essay for the Final Exam
• While watching the opera, choose one section to document in detail.
• The section titles are as follows:
1. The Story of Du Liniang (female lead – Dan)
2. The Garden
3. LuiMengmei: the Scholar (male lead – Sheng)
4. The Portrait: Pintang
5. Death – of Du Liniang
6. The Underworld
7. A Great Romance
8. Exhuming the Coffin
9. Mother and Daughter Reunion
Chinese Jingju Opera Peony Pavilion Documentation
• Your documentation must include an analysis of the following items:
1. State what is happening in the plot during the section.
2. List of the scene types in the order in which they occur.
3. List of the characters and their character types, including which ones appear together within each scene.
4. A detailed analysis of the particular modes of expression(heightened speech, singing, gestures using particular socially dictated ways of interacting –
for example the use of elongated sleeves when touching one another) used within each scene and the characters that employed these modes. You should also include fighting and/or acrobatics when these appear. Facial expressions can also be documented as these apply in the scene, but this is optional.
5. Give your overall impression of the entire opera and story: Explain the ways in which this story is still relevant in 2013.
Chinese Jingju Opera Peony Pavilion Assignment
* the assignment where it says( ASSIGNMENT – to be developed into an essay for the Final Exam), What you have to do is watch a (Chinese opera peony
pavilion) and then choose one section. you have to watch the full play and understand it very well so you can give the right information is also gonna be in
the final so please make sure its right information . you can find it on YouTube or if you know any website that shows the full play please go ahead and do it because we did watch it in class