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A brief introduction about Mei Lanfang

2014-10-23 15:48:35



Mei Lanfang (1884-1961) was a world famous maestro of Peking Opera in China. He made a prominent contribution to the improvement and popularization of Peking Opera.

The Chinese Peking Opera performing system named after Mei Lanfang is regarded as the model of oriental drama performing systems and one of the "Three Major Drama Performing Systems in the World" together with Russian Stanislavsky Performing System and German Brecht Performing System.

Mei Lanfang is his stage name, and in Chinese it is generally considered a feminine name. His real name was Mei Lan.

Born in an opera actor's family in Beijing, Mei Lanfang began to learn opera performing at eight. At the age of twenty, he became famous in Beijing and Shanghai. As an outstanding Peking Opera representative serving as a link between the past and the future, Mei Lanfang was brave in conducting reforms and innovations in numerous areas such as music, dressing, performance and dance.

Furthermore, Mei Lanfang created the "Mei School" art of Peking Opera with unique performing mode and aria by assimilating the performance of Qingyi (a female role), Huadan (a vivacious young woman), Daomadan (a female warrior role) and other roles.

In this way, he upgraded the art of Peking Opera to a higher level and made "Mei School" the most influential one in China. Accomplished successor of "Mei School" art include Li Shifang, Zhang Junqiu, Yan Huizhu, Du Jinfang and Mei Maojiu with numerous other students. Representative repertoires of "Mei School" art are The Drunken Beauty, Farewell to My Concubine, Lady General Mu Takes Command and Blade of Cosmos.

Mei was the first artist to spread Peking Opera to foreign countries, participating in cultural exchanges with Japan, the United States, and other regions. He communicated with lots of world-famous writers and artists such as Tagore, Golgi, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Lev Tolstoy, Stanislavsky, Bernard Shaw, Brecht, Chaplin and Fairbanks. He is unarguably an ambassador of Chinese culture.

After 1949 Mei served as director of China Beijing Opera Theater, director of the Chinese Opera Research Institute, and vice-chairman of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Besides his autobiography, Forty Years of Life on the Stage, several of his articles and essays have been published in The Collected Works of Mei Lanfang. Recordings of his best-known performances have been published in A Selection of Peking Operas Performed by Mei Lanfang. In 2000, the story of his life was filmed in a documentary entitled The Worlds of Mei Lanfang. Acclaimed director Chen Kaige directed Forever Enthralled, a film biography of Mei's life, released in December 2008.