Opera star to shine in inspirational roles

Updated:Nov 26,2021 09:16 AM China Daily Global

Han Zaifen, one of China's most acclaimed Huangmei Opera artists, brings two pieces to the capital, along with actors and actresses of Anqing Zaifen Huangmei Opera Art Theater.

From Wednesday to Friday, she is performing the lead role in a contemporary Huangmei Opera piece, titled Immortal Heroine Yang Kaihui, which portrays Yang Kaihui (1901-30), the revolutionary martyr and wife of Chairman Mao Zedong.

On Saturday and Sunday, Han will play a major role in the classic Huangmei Opera piece, The Emperor's Female Son-in-Law, which tells the story of Feng Suzhen, a woman who pretends to be a man in order to participate in the imperial examination and meet the emperor to save her imprisoned fiance.

According to Han, founder and president of the Anqing Zaifen Huangmei Opera Art Theater, the two Huangmei Opera pieces showcase the beauty of the old art form to audiences, who will see the traditional singing, choreography and movements as well as the new arrangements.

Premiered on July 21 in Hefei, East China's Anhui province, Immortal Heroine Yang Kaihui tells the story of Yang, who joined the Communist Party of China in the early 1920s and was killed by the Kuomintang at the age of 29.

"We went to Hunan province to visit Kaihui town, Yang's birthplace, to learn more about her story," recalls Han. "Huangmei Opera is known for its lyrical singing and for using everyday language, which makes it easy for audiences to understand the characters. It helps to tell her story."

Han adds that the new piece was created to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

The 53-year-old Han, born in Anqing, was introduced to Huangmei Opera by her mother, a Huangmei Opera actress. At 10, Han started to learn to practice the art form at a local Huangmei Opera school in Anqing.

As a student, Han learned to perform the classic Huangmei Opera piece, The Emperor's Female Son-in-Law. In 1986, she played the leading role in a TV drama adapted from the classic piece, which was hugely popular and gained Han a large fan base in the country.

The Huangmei Opera, a local form of opera in Anhui province, is one of the major traditional opera genres in China, along with Peking Opera, Yueju Opera and Kunqu Opera.

Originally, Huangmei Opera was sung by women while picking tea, and is also known as caichaxi (tea-picking opera).

Originating from Anqing, Anhui, Huangmei Opera became popular in the adjacent regions, such as Hubei and Jiangxi provinces, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In 2006, Huangmei Opera was included in the first national intangible cultural heritage list.