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Zhejiang Opera Music
2012-05-27 21:01:35

Zhejiang Opera Music

Zhejiang opera music is an important integrative part of Zhejiang music. The major characteristic of it is that several tunes, in the course of performing together, developed into a multi-tuned opera. Those ancient Nan Qu (south tune), Yuyao Tune, Haiyan Tune and so on all hold significant positions in Chinese theatrical history. They used to prevail in Zhejiang for a time, and had great impact on the development of later tunes. The later tunes, Hun Qiang, Gao Qiang and Luan Tan for example, continued to be influential until today. Each tune finds its way into its opera with distinct characteristics, and after getting the particular brand from the opera, it develops further. With the rise of some new kinds, like Yue Opera born upon the early singing-and-talking music and folk songs of Ming and Qing Dynasties Zhejiang opera music becomes even more rich and colorful.

The major categories of Zhejiang opera music are: Nan Qu, Gao Qiang, Kun Qiang, Luan Tan and Tan Huang.

  Nan Qu

Nan Qu was the tune of the early Nan Xi (southern opera, alias Yongjia Za-Ju or Wenzhou Za-Ju). "The tunes, added in Song Ci as lyrics, were made for the streets." (Record of Nan Ci by Xu Wei) In addition, it took in elements from traditional music (such as Da Qu of Tang and Song dynasties, Zhu Gong Diao, Chang Zhuan and Zhuan Ta), Bei Qu (the north tune), music of the minority groups (such as Fan Qu) and religious music (such as Buddhism tunes and Taoism tunes). The structure of Nan Qu was relatively free - just a link of independent singles. It did not have strict modes or metrical lyrics. It could be acceptable as long as it was easy for singing aloud. However, "only neighboring and close singles could be joint together as a cycle" (Record of Nan Ci by Xu Wei). The singles were suitable for all kinds of roles, but the major male and female characters in the opera generally used tunes whose lyrics were in the form of Ci whereas the characters with painted faces and the clowns used the tunes from folk songs. The singers could do solo, antiphonal singing, collective singing, or assistant singing. In the course of development, Nan Qu fully absorbed the strengths of Bei Qu and created a new form with the mixture of the two. Once it arrived at a place, it combined with the local music and gave birth to many new local opera tunes. In Ming Dynasty, the emergence of Yuyao tune, Haiyan tune, Hangzhou tune and Yiwu tune in Zhejiang was the very result of the age-old Nan Qu traditions joining up the local music and dialect.


  Ancient music score books

Gao Qiang

Gao Qiang included the following: Diao Qiang in Diao Qiang Opera, Diao Qiang in Shao Opera, Diao Qiang in Luan Tan Opera of Zhuji, Ping Diao of Ping Diao Opera of Ninghai, Gao Qiang (Rui'an Gao Qiang initially) in Ou Opera, Gao Qiang in Luan Tan Opera of Taizhou, Song Yang Gao Qiang, Gao Qiang in Xing Gan Opera, and Xi'an, Xiwu, Houyang Gao Qiang in Wu Opera. The first six were similar to each other, and were generally considered to be evolved form Diao Qiang popular around Shaoxing at the turn of Ming and Qing Dynasties; the latter kinds belonged to one group closely related with the early tunes in Yiyang, Huizhou, Siping and Yiwu.

Walk-and-play, by Shaoyunxuan folk troupe of Shangyu

Gao Qiang followed the traditions of early Nan Qu in that its structure was of some settled cycles of singles. Though most of the tunes retained the same name as those in Na Qu and Bei Qu, their melodies changed. Most of the Bei Qu tunes were south-ized into the five mode musical scales and were integrated into the style of Gao Qiang.

Gao Qiang tunes were passed around orally with no written musical scores. But beside the hand-written copies of lyric of Diao Qiang and Song Yang Gao Qiang, there were usually some marks for hint or to aid memory. These marks indicated the tendency of the tune, the drum beat positions, the stressed sentences and the length of the prolonged sentences.

Qu Qiang

Qu Qiang was passed into Zhejiang from Suzhou and since then prevailed in the area for long. It gradually drew in the local dialects, folk music and opera elements, and formed different opera tunes as Yongjia Kun Ju (abbr. Yong Kun), Jinhua Kun Ju (abbr. Jin Kun) and Ningbo Kun Ju (abbr. Yong Kun, a different Chinese character). Due to the origins and coverage areas, Kun Qiang music in Diao Qiang, Ninghai Ping Diao and Shao Opera was more like Ninbo Kun Ju; the one in Wu Opera was quite the same as Jin Kun; and the one is Ou Opera and Luan Tan Opera of Taizhou was similar with Yongjia Kun Ju. When it comes to the music used by Zhejiang Kun Ju Troupe, it was close to Kun Qu of Suzhou except that it carried the accent of Zhejiang dialect.

Following the traditions of Nan Qu and Bei Qu, Kun Qiang also fell into south tunes and north tunes. But no matter which it belonged to, there was set patterns for the lyrics. The structure of Kun Qu was link of different tunes. It could be "south tune cycle", "north tune cycle" or "south-and-north joint cycle".


   Playing Beng-Gu (strain drum)

Luan Tan

Luan Tan was the general name of the seven tunes from Wu Opera, Shao Opera, Ou Opera, Luan Tan Opera of Taizhou, Luan Tan Opera of Zhuji, He Opera and Ping Diao Opera of Ningbo respectively. The first four were distinct in features; Luan Tan in Luan Tan Opera of Zhuji was not only similar to Bo Zi of Hui Luan and Beijing Opera, but also the same as Wu Opera and Gong Shao Opera in part; Luan Tan of He Opera was basically the same as that of Ou Opera except that the former usually sang reversed Tuan Tan while the latter mainly used regular Luan Tan tunes; no material is left about Luan Tan in Ping Diao Opera of Ninghai. Yong Opera, Yue Opera and Xing Gan Opera took in some Luan Tan tunes from the prevailing ones in the local area, so the first two had Luan Tan similar with those in Shao Opera whereas the last had tunes similar with Wu Opera.

Zhejiang Luan Tan had "San Wu Qi" and "Er Fan" as its representatives. The former blended the characteristics of both Gao Qiang and Kun Qiang whereas the latter was much like the clapper opera of the north. They were believed to be originated from clapper opera Yang Qiang tunes (viz. Kun Yi Qiang, abbr. Bang Zi Qiang) and clapper opera Luan Tan tunes (abbr. Luan Tan Qiang) formed in south of Anhui province before Mid-Qing Dynasty. It was Shi Pai Qiang Troupe and Anhui Troupe that brought them into Zhejiang. The above mentioned two tunes were varied in different operas, hence many different names.

Playing Bo-Gun, by Shuitou folk troupe of Pingyang

Tan Huang

Tan Huang derived from some folk tunes of Ming and Qing Dynasties such as Tan Huang tunes and Nan Ci Tan Huang tunes. Some of it around Jiangsu and Zhejiang province was combined with Hua-Gu (flower-drum, a folk dance popular in the Changjiang valley), hence the worldly Hua-Tan. Some were influenced by Kun Qiang Opera and Luan Tan Operas, hence the relatively elegant Qian-Tan. They both belonged to Tan Huang system. Yong Opera, Yao Opera and Hu Opera were all Hua-Tan (Yong Opera later took in Siming Nan Ci and some tunes from Shaoxing Luan Tan) while Wu Opera, He Opera, Ou Opera and Taizhou Luan Tan belonged to Qian-Tan. Since 1961, Hangzhou Opera also absorbed the local folk art music - Hangzhou Tan Huang. The lyric sentences of key Qian-Tan tunes were basically all made up of seven characters. Sentences of ten characters were also acceptable. The assisting tunes could either be the sentences of the same length or of different length. The singles were joined up together as one cycle, or one single could be played in a cycle of different versions, either. It was also true to Hou-Tan.

Playing Dong-Dang-Dong

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