Xiqu on television

Xiqu on television
While television has created and popularized new forms of entertainment since the mid 1980s, old forms of Xiqu (spoken drama/opera) are also using television to reach a broader audience and to adapt to more contemporary tastes. Most central and local TV stations in China have either a designated channel or a fixed time slot for Xiqu theatre. There have been four forms of TV theatrical adaptations. To illustrate the characteristics of these forms, different versions of The Western Wing (Xixiangji) are used here as a case in point. The first form is called wutai shikuang zhuanbo, a ‘live televised version’, including reruns, of a particular stage production, such as the 1980s Jingju (Peking opera) Hongniang with Song Changrong in the title role. The next category is called wutai xiqu yishupian, a version, similar to operatic films, which preserves the style of a stage production, using a realistic setting shot from different angles. An example is Tian Han’s 1950s Jingju version adapted for television in the 1980s with the famous singer Zhang Junqiu as Cui Yingying. The third category is termed xiqu dianshi lianxuju, a TV series in which actors perform as they do on stage, but in a realistic environment that does not allow for certain stage conventions such as pantomimic gestures.
An example is Wu Chen’s 1988 four-segment adaptation of Su Xue’an’s 1950s Yueju (Zhejiang opera) The Western Wing. This TV series was in fact followed in 1988 by the fourth type of musical TV drama termed xiqu yinyue dianshiju, in which characters in a realistic setting speak and act naturally, but sing in the style of a particular regional opera: the Huangmeixi (Hubei opera) yinyue dianshiju of The Western Wing directed by Hu Liancui. The main difference between a traditional stage production and these four types of TV adaptations is that the theatrical concepts of time and space have been increasingly modified and transformed by cinematic modes.
The recent marriage between traditional theatre and television is significant for four reasons: the Western-influenced television culture is made more Chinese, while some of the old theatrical forms are preserved or modernized, for better or for worse; young members of the television audience are exposed to Xiqu theatre; the range of dramatic topics is broadened through cinematic techniques, and more playwrights are engaged in the production of Xiqu theatre; and different regional styles of the traditional theatre become known and appreciated by a national audience.
Meng, Fanshu. (1999). Xiqu dianshiju yishu lun [On the Art of Xiqu TV Drama]. Beijing: Beijing guangbo xueyuan chubanshe.
Zhong, Yibing and Huang, Wangnan. (eds) (1994). Zhongguo dianshi yishu fazhanshi [A History of the Development of Chinese Television Arts]. Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe, 249–90.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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