Beijing Opera in London

by Xiangyi Yu
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The Chinese young generation might be losing their interest in traditional culture. The most important traditional performance, the Chinese opera has fewer audiences than before. 

However, in London, The London Jing Kun Opera Association (LJKOA) is a professional organisation that promotes both Jingju (Beijing Opera) and Kunqu Opera.
 Kathy Hall, the chief executive said LJKOA was found in 2002. As a non-profit society.  The association aims to support the learning, and practice of traditional Chinese Arts.

LJKOA performs at least twice every month in London or around the UK. As a young organization, LJKOA has grown quickly, keeping a high performance rate in the West. How did they achieve this success?

Keeping traditional culture

Forty years ago, 2,000 troupes crisscrossed China performing traditional operas, a unique blend of performing arts.

Now, there are just 76 troupes, and Beijing opera is largely seen as a dying art.

"I used to get really angry at the state of the opera. This is Chinese tradition; we made this, this incredible, beautiful thing. We are destroying it, we are forgetting it, throwing it away," said Kathy Hall.

“All we want and are trying hard to do, is keep Beijing Opera alive. It is a rough fight, but we will keep going.” she added.

Exploring Beijing Opera

Just increasing performances can’t save Beijing Opera. LJKOA holds classes and workshops to teach and broadcast the Chinese Opera’s culture.

They visit primary schools, universities and invite students to their theatre performances, introduce Beijing Opera and its performance to the community.

A student said the workshops were amazing. He was fascinated by the level of complexity involved in each of the movements and was generally thrilled by this form of performance. According to him, the Beijing Opera is one of the greatest forms of artistic expression.
What is Beijing Opera?

The Beijing Opera is a comprehensive performing art, which combines "singing, reading, performing, playing (martial arts), and dancing as a whole.

The opera has a rich repertoire, featuring famous performing artists. In terms of theater quantities, audiences, and influence, Beijing opera is all ranked number one by many Chinese.

 The Opera's role is mainly divided into: four role categories, Sheng (male), Dan (female), Jing (male), ugly (male/female) in addition to a number of supporting roles.

Now LJKOA wants to reinvent Beijing opera for a wider audience. But many think the very innovations that may just keep Beijing opera alive also risk destroying its most traditional forms.