Yuexi High-pitched Tune has a history of more than 300 years. It was considered by some experts as “living fossil” in the history of traditional opera. It also has certain connection with the ancient Qingyang Tune which was popular across the country in the Wanli Region of the Ming Dynasty.
Since the late period of the Qing Dynasty, Yuexi High-pitched Tune had waxed and wanted before it was once in imminent danger. After the establishment of new China, Yuexi High-pitched Tune began to revitalized and developed well. In May 2006, Yuexi High pitched Tune was included in the first catalogue of National Intangible Cultural Heritage by the State Council.
The repertoire of Yuexi High-pitched Tune consists of more than 250 plays which is divided into two categories: “comic play” and “formal play”. “Comic play” was introduced into Yuexi earlier but few were left behind. The “comic play” usually has a simple plot but is practical. It is directly performed at various folk events, such as “Blessings of Celestial Official” at the lantern show.
“Formal Play” is the mainstream of Yuexi High-pitched Tune repertoire. The best known one is the legendary repertoire in the Ming Dynasty with a wide range of themes and diverse styles.
The show is also divided into forms when they are performed, one of which is “Group Drum,” considered as cappella. The show is composed of five or seven artists who sit around a drum. Each of them hold a percussion instruments, led by a drum teacher. One sings, and others join in the singing. Another is the dominant form of Yuexi High-pitched Tune which is considered formal, all players must put on makeups and are dressed up in costumes on the stage.
The artists of Yuexi High-pitched Tune are divided into male lead, female character type, character with painted facial make-up, middle-age male character, clown and so on. The roles are inherited from the role system of Qingyang Tune.
At present, a troupe of Yuexi High-pitched Tune has been founded in Yuexi County. While retaining original flavor, Yuexi High-pitched Tune is incorporated with some modern elements. String accompaniment is also added to change the monotonous impression of Yuexi High-pitched Tune. This ancient art form is renewed with life luster.