Wednesday, May 21, 2008
It would be very difficult to accurately describe the Beijing Opera to anyone who hadn't seen it!
Had I done a little research before the trip I might have understood it better so it wasn't at all what I was expecting. The singing sounded to me like cats being tortured at irregular intervals and I hadn't expected to see the singers performing acrobatic stunts - I may be wrong but I don't remember Pavarotti being renowned for them! The character I've drawn is a 'Sheng', which is a male lead and the category is further divided into things like male leads with beards, martial arts male lead or elderly male lead etc. So I think this character may be a martial sheng. I'm guessing he could also be a Jing, another male role, with the red make-up symbolising courage - there are quite a few categories and the make-up, clothing and accessories (like the hats) all have specific meaning.The other character was obviously a 'Chou' as he had the classic make-up of a the clown character. He is the only character that sings in a natural voice.
There are a number of classic stories and this is from 'The Crossroads' where there is a case of mistaken identity at an inn and a fight ensues in the dark with the two men blindly taking swipes at each other with their swords. In this story there is little or no singing, just a clashing of cymbals now and again and I must say it was very long and drawn out! Fortunately we had a programme and understood the story but from some of the overheard comments, it was obvious not everyone understood what was going on and, as the stage lighting was unchanged, there were no clues. But as these are classic stories played again and again, the Chinese understand them and go for the performance not to find out what happens at the end!
Just a small note with this drawing - I tried doing the trousers without any lines, or drawn edges, just colour against colour to see what the effect might be. Also I tried shading with purple and not grey, which seemed to work. The face and top half were started a while ago and I left the drawing after doing those as I wasn't happy with it. Anyway, I finished it but the face is looser and not so well done (as is the patterning on the costume) and in retrospect I would have taken more time over it as I enjoyed it better when I slowed down. I'm now using a combination of Cretacolor Aquamonoliths, Faber Castell Polychromos and Albrect Durer pencils.