Geju


Geju
(sung plays)
This term, literally ‘sung plays’, refers both to dramas of the revolutionary movement that integrate folk-style tunes with partially Westernized musical accompaniments, and to Western-style opera, including those by Chinese composers. In contrasts to Xiqu (sung-drama) which groups indigenous musical dramatic traditions like Peking opera, Geju is seen as more squarely focused on singing, while the other Western import, Huaju (spoken drama), focuses on speech. An example of the revolutionary dramas is The White-Haired Girl (Baimao nü, 1945) by Ma Ke and others (see He Jingzhi). Written for a mixed ensemble of Chinese and European instruments, it combined local tunes with overseas orchestral, vocal and choral style. Such pieces are less often produced today.
Western opera was first performed commercially in China in Shanghai in 1874.
Since then overseas opera companies have toured China regularly, and several professional Chinese troupes have been established. Initially, the technology and method of production of European drama was more influential than the music of specific operas. Western-style theatres were erected in major cities, and specialist composers and directors hired; indeed, some Xiqu troupe leaders now take Geju as a model in these respects. Chinese-composed Geju are generally close to European light opera in musical style, with a clear story and an alternation of spoken dialogue and songs for bel canto voices with orchestral accompaniment. Examples of Geju include The Song of the Grassland (Caoyuan zhi ge, 1955) by Luo Zongxian, and The Hundredth Bride (Di yibai ge xinniang, 1980) by Wang Shiguang and Cai Kexiang. Recently China’s Third Generation composers (see Third Generation /composers)) have begun to challenge this model with more modernist and postmodernist works.
JONATHAN P.J.STOCK

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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