Chinese Peking Opera troupes resort to online performance, attract large numbers of young audiences

A stage photo of modern Peking Opera "Life Show". Photo from Wuhan Peking Opera troupes

A series of Peking Opera performances are currently presented online by China’s National Peking Opera Company (NPOC) and 18 Peking Opera troupes across the country.

The Peking Opera shows are staged free on various video platforms from Aug. 8 to Sept. 6 at 7:30 pm every day, including Kuaishou, Ximalaya and Qingting FM, as well as the website of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, attracting a large number of young people.

The debuting performance of the month-long online Peking Opera season was watched by a total of over 180,000 people and received more than a million likes. As of the end of Aug. 24, these performances had been watched by nearly 46.5 million people and received over 21.3 million likes.

“The rapid development of 5G and new media has made online performance one of the most important ways for the young generation to experience entertainment and culture. It is a perfect time to promote the Peking Opera through this popular form,” said Zhang Yafeng, deputy head of the NPOC. Demands are different in different eras, and the innovative method to promote the traditional Chinese quintessence is able to bring new charm and vitality to the ancient art form, he added.

The performances received positive comments on the internet. Some said it was their first time to get the beauty of the Chinese quintessence, while some said it was a rare opportunity to enjoy the masterpieces of Peking Opera artists.

The culture and art sector witnessed rapid development online during China’s COVID-19 prevention and control, with a rising number of “cloud” performances and dramas. Many troupes have been actively exploring the online development space, launching rich online activities.

Modern Peking opera “Life Show” was watched by over a million people online. Learning the message, Liu Ziwei, head of Wuhan Peking Opera Theatre and national class-A artist, was very happy. As one that acted a leading role in the opera, she told the People’s Daily that to better inherit the traditional Peking Opera, the industry shall address the lack of young audience and the lack of innovation in scripts, so it’s important to livestream the operas at the time being. “The online Peking Opera season this time expresses the attitude of the Peking Opera circle, and will greatly drive the innovation and development of the traditional Chinese opera.

Online performance is new to most of Peking Opera troupes. To move the performance online is never simply recording the operas with cameras. It requests the troupes to change the way of production and performing so as to adapt to the new trend of watching.

Zhang told the People’s Daily that they are working to not only stage the performances in the theaters, but also filming opera dramas to expand the spreading channels of traditional operas, so as to satisfy the different demands of audiences.

During the one-month online Peking Opera season, multiple artists have interacted with audiences through livestreaming, answering questions raised by them.

Zhang noted that livestreaming is a more direct way of interaction. The bullet screen and real-time comments have completely changed the one-way interaction in theaters, making it possible for audiences to cheer for artists while communicating with others who are also watching.

Besides, Mei Lanfang theater under the NPOC is now inviting Peking Opera fans to jointly complete arias with famous artists on short video platform Kuaishou.

“We will keep exploring tech-based manners to inherit the Peking Opera and make this traditional art form popular among young people,” Zhang said.

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