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Chinese opera - Opera music


Opera music is a genre of Han folk music. It is one of the important artistic means to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the art of opera, portray the character of the characters, and set off the atmosphere of the stage. It comes from a variety of musical components such as folk songs, cry, dance, and instrumental music, and is an important part of the folk music of the Han nation. This kind of drama music has Bai Ji’s unique structure, expression methods, and artistic skills, and has a strong national artistic style. From the perspective of production music, opera belongs to Chinese musical drama. It is obviously different from the musical tradition of western opera and its composers’ personal professional creation.
Chinese opera music has folk and formal characteristics.
Chinese opera music is folk music in nature. The creation of opera music still has the nature of folk creation, and to a large extent retains several characteristics of folk music. First, opera music is rooted in the folk and has a solid mass foundation. It is closely related to local voices, folk songs, and rap music in various places. Second, the music of each type of drama is not created by a single composer, but the product of the long-term development of folk music. It is the result of collective creation for generations and embodies the artistic wisdom of generations of people. Third, historical opera music has been constantly evolving through oral singing. Due to different people’s conditions and different dialects, the tone of oral singing will change a lot. This variability can make the same accent evolve into accents with different styles or regional voices; singing in the same drama genre can form genres with different characteristics. Traditional opera music is constantly evolving and changing following this evolutionary way of folk music. Fourth, in historical opera music creation, the singer (play) is also the composer, and the process of singing (playing) is also the process of composing. In other words, the process of composing music and the process of singing (playing) are combined into one. Therefore, the methods and techniques for handling singing or music in opera singing or performance often include composition methods. The above folk characteristics exist in almost all voices and dramas. There is only Kunqiang. This is the only one that was produced by the folks and then after Wei Liangfu (year of birth and death is unknown). But it is also different from Western opera and its composition. In the artist’s singing, there is still a certain degree of flexibility and local evolution.
Another characteristic of opera music is its stylistic nature. The musical formulas of opera, ranging from the musical structure and aria system (Qupai for singing Southern and Northern tunes or Banqiang for singing random tunes) throughout the theatrical performance, as small as the structure of Qupai, Bantai singing, gongs, and drums, etc. Technology and its application are ubiquitous and very rich. The combination and application of music programs are inseparable for singing, chanting, doing, and playing in any repertoire. This kind of creation method does not abandon tradition but realizes new synthesis and new creation based on traditional expression forms and methods. There are certain rules for the use of programs. Regardless of the tunes and dramas, there are often different music programs. Based on the logic of music, the requirements for the program are strict, but the strictly standardized program can be mastered flexibly and freely in specific applications. In the long-term practice, it has been proved that the expressive function of the opera music program is an important means for creating the stage image of opera. The Chinese opera music troupe exhibits its own unique professional level, national characteristics, and aesthetic significance due to its folk and programmatic nature. This characteristic, to this day, remains in the creation of opera music.
Opera music includes vocal music and instrumental music. Vocal music is mainly composed of singing and chanting. It is the main body of opera music.
In the musical structure of opera, the vocal part is its main body. Traditional Chinese aesthetics believes that vocal singing is more intimate and moving than instrumental accompaniment, and it is easier to arouse the understanding and resonance of the audience. The reason is that the music played by the instrument, although it can also express emotions, can not express it. Opera music portrays the image of characters, and the main body relies on vocal music, that is, beautiful singing and moving singing. Regardless of whether it is paid or banking, the opera can be divided into lyrical aria, narrative aria, and dramatic aria. Lyric singing is characterized by fewer words and more voice, strong melody, and longer than expressing inner feelings; narrative singing is characterized by more words and fewer voices, strong recitation, suitable for narration and answering occasions; dramatic singing is mostly free of beat There is great flexibility in the expansion and contraction of the rhythm, which is better than expressing passionate and strong feelings. The alternating use of these three types of tunes constitutes the dramatic variety of opera music. Chinese opera has many traditional repertoires, so it can be sung on the stage for a long time, mainly thanks to the popular singing voice among them.


The art of opera singing has also formed its own unique style and professional skills in the long-term development. In singing, pay attention to the relationship between character and sound, sound and emotion. Clearly and accurately expressing the pronunciation and meaning of words is the first requirement of singing skills, and a series of singing methods and skills have been produced. Singing generally includes vocalization, utterance, use of air, and decorative singing. Its purpose is to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the drama. Singing a song and moving people with emotion is the highest aesthetic standard of singing art. The many actors in Chinese opera have contributed to singing more than the genre creation in singing. The genre singing created by the actors and musicians based on the accent of this play has more practical significance in music composition. Peking opera performing artist Mei Lanfang and luthier Xu Lanyuan collaborated to create a tune, which is a typical example. The Mei (Lanfang) School, Cheng (Yanqiu) School, Xun (Huisheng) School, Shang (Xiaoyun) School of Dancing in Peking Opera, the Yu (Shuyan) School and Ma (Lianliang) School of Lao Shengxing; Yue Opera Fan (Ruijuan) School, Xu (Yulan) School, Yin (Guifang) School, Dancing Yuan (Xuefen) School, Fu (Quanxiang) School, Qi (Yaxian) School, Lu (Ruiying) Schools are all genres with a reputation for singing art.
The singing in opera can be roughly divided into three types:
(1)The first is lyrical singing, which is characterized by slower speed, smooth and tortuous tunes, sparse words, and strong lyricism. It is suitable for expressing the deep and delicate inner feelings of the characters. The Adagio, Big Adagio, Original, and Mid-Board of many dramas are better than this category.
(2)The second is narrative singing, which is characterized by medium speed, relatively straightforward tunes, concise words, and strong recitation. It is often used to explain the plot and the mood of the character. Many types of dramas, such as twenty-six, running water, etc. belong to this category.
(3)The third type is dramatic singing, which is characterized by large fluctuations in the tune, strong changes in rhythm and speed, and a sparse and dense arrangement of lyrics. It is often used in situations where emotional changes are intense and dramatic conflicts intensify. The ban-style tunes in the dramas, such as loose board and shake board, fall into this category.


The inner monologues and dialogues of the characters in the opera are chanting apart from being sung in the form of singing.  Singing and reading are the two major components of opera vocal music. All the accomplished actors in the past are good at singing and thinking. Singing tones is the basis for expressing expressions. The four-tone tones of Chinese, circumfluence, and frustration, are also the basis of the beauty of white music. Various forms of chanting, such as the rhyme white, Jingbai, and dialect white in Peking opera, are different degrees of a combination of language and music.

Instrumental music

The instrumental music part includes orchestral music (commonly known as “wenching”) and percussion (commonly known as “Wuchang”) of different instrument combinations. Instrumental music is used to accompany the vocal accompaniment and opening and cutscenes music, in conjunction with dance, martial arts, performances, contrast, and render the stage atmosphere. It is worth mentioning that Wuchang—percussion music plays an important role in unifying and enhancing the control of the stage rhythm. It is a unique artistic expression method in Chinese opera.
Opera uses instrumental music as a means of expression, which is mainly used to accompany singing, doing, reading, and playing, that is, performing arts, as well as to develop drama contradictions, shape characters, express thoughts, and feelings, and enhance stage atmosphere. The task of instrumental accompaniment is performed by the band. The opera band is composed of two parts, the stringed part is called Wenchang, and the percussion part is called Wuchang. Collectively called Wenwuchang. The role of the literary field is mainly to accompany the singing and to play the tunes (scenario music) used in conjunction with the performance. The main task of the martial arts field is to use percussion instruments to hit the gongs and drums, coordinate with the actor’s body movements, chant, sing, dance, and start the fight to make the start and end clear, and the rhythm is orderly. Moreover, under the lead (conductor) of Master Guban, the rhythm of the whole play is adjusted and controlled. Although instrumental music plays an auxiliary role in opera music, it has advantages over vocal music. Instrumental music includes a variety of orchestral and percussion instruments, each of which has its own characteristics and colors.
Although the instrument combinations of various bands are different, the role of the drum master and the role of the lead instrument is the same.
The main musical instruments of Chinese opera music include Kun Opera’s Qudi, Qin Opera, Henan Opera, Hebei Bangzi Bangzi Opera Banhu, Peking Opera, Han Opera, etc. Phuong Opera Huqin, and Shandong Lu Opera Zhuziqin, etc. The different timbres and performance methods of the main instrument are often important signs that form the unique style of this play. From hearing the lead instrument, we can tell what kind of drama or voice is performing.
Percussion instruments are widely used in opera and have outstanding artistic effects. The singing, doing, reading, and playing of opera has a strong rhythm, and gongs and drums are kind of musical instruments with a strong sound and clear rhythm, which are the backbone of the rhythm of drama. With the cooperation of gongs and drums accompaniment, it can enhance the rhythm and accuracy of opera singing and performance, help express the mood of the characters, add the colors of the drama, and enhance the atmosphere of the stage.
The various tunes in opera instrumental music and the various gongs and drums of percussion constitute the scene music in opera. The use of scene music strives to be concise and concise, which is very similar to the Chinese painting style.

Innovation and development

With the changes of the times, opera music is faced with two problems. One is to inherit and carry forward the tradition of national opera music, to remove the roughness, enrich and improve it, so that it can release new brilliance; the other is how to express new life and shape new characters. With the concerted efforts of opera musicians, actors, and musicians for more than 40 years, they have reformed and explored various aspects of singing, singing, accompaniment, and band, and achieved many results. The reform of opera music is mainly reflected in the processing of traditional repertoires and the creation of new repertoires (including historical story themes and real-life themes). The methods are 1.Summarize historical experience and adopt inherent composition methods and means; 2. Learn from, absorb and adopt Western music composition methods. Explore and move forward in creative practice.
Singing is the main body of the music of all kinds of operas, and it is the most distinctive means of expressing characters in operas. It has a strong appeal. Contemporary singing reform is mainly manifested in the extensive absorption based on inherited tradition. This kind of absorption includes the absorption of the various professions within the drama; the absorption of the singing of brothers’ drama; the absorption of sister arts such as songs, folk songs, and rap; the absorption of language tones, and so on.
Another manifestation of contemporary singing reform is to recombine singing according to certain melody and rhythm of traditional singing and develop new styles. For example, there are such breakthroughs in Yue opera “Mu Guiying”, Henan opera ” Chaoyanggou “, Lu opera ” Li Ersao’s remarriage “, Cantonese opera ” Guan Hanqing “, Huai opera ” Meng Lijun “, ” Lan Zige ” and other operas.
To adapt to the new content, some distinctive forms of expression and processing techniques in traditional dramas are creatively used in new dramas. For example, in the “Wise Fight” in “Shajiabang”, the duet of A Qingdao, Hu Chuankui, and Diao De is the magical effect of traditional expressions. It shows the complicated and subtle contradictory relationship of the three parties and shows the three Personality characteristics are dramatic and popular.
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