Peking Opera , culturally the most influential art form in modern Chinese history , also represents one of the world’s most unique bodies of work in performing art . During its development spanning over two hundred years , Peking Opera has acquired strengths from China’s singing , dancing , music , painting , and literature traditions , and evolved from folk art to royal entertainment and gained popularity with imperial families and common people alike . It is considered the national opera of China . Mei Lanfang , the greatest Peking Opera artist and the quintessential figure witnessing and contributing to its development , is also regarded as one of the most extraordinary masters in the world’s history of performing art .
Mei Lanfang was born in 1894 in Beijing . Both his father and grandfather were actors dedicated to playing female figures in Peking Opera . Mei began his schooling in the art form at the age of nine , and went on stage to perform for the first time at ten . In the half century that followed , he created numerous memorable characters, and formally established the Mei style of acting . On stage , he might appear as the elegant wife of the emperor or a refreshing young lady , while in real life , he was a man of extremely handsome appearance , as well as a caring husband and a loving father . Mei Lanfang is also remembered with great respect by his fellow countryman as a patriot, an erudite scholar , and a pioneer who has introduced Peking Opera to the internatinal world.
Mei Lanfang visited Japan three times during 1919, 1924 and 1956 to perform ; he also went to perform in the U.S. at the end of 1929, and was awarded the honorary doctorate degree by the Pomona College and the University of Southern California respectively . In 1935, he went to perform in the former Soviet Union. His extraordinary performance on these foreign stages has won recognition for Peking Opear from around the world, and made Mei Lanfang an unforgettable name to the international audience.
This documentary “A Great Master Recaptured ” will include the best film footage on Mei Lanfang selected from China Central News and Documentary Film Studio’s archive , as well as film and photographic materials recording his life and art gathered from around the world . The documentary will use 35mm color film, combined with advanced cinematic technique, to retrace the steps of MeiLanfang ’s life and journey through theaters where he had performed and countries and cities that he had visited . The film will also document a deeply personal interview with Mei Baojiu, MeiLanfang ’s youngest son, who is also the most important disciple of the Mei style of acting . Through the memory of Mei Baojiu, now in his 70’s, we will be able to approach his father Mei Lanfang ’s life up close. The film will also focus on the inheritance and development of the Mei style in th 21st century, including episodes with enactment of the classical Mei repertoire by the best students of the Mei school. Such appearance will ensure the most satisfying representation of the Mei style for an eager audience.