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Shanghai Opera

Shanghai Opera

Shanghai Opera is a common type of opera in Shanghai which is popular in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas. It originated from local folk songs in the Shanghai Pudong area, and was influenced by Suzhou Tan Huang to a certain degree and formed Shanghai Tan Huang folk art (Ben Tan in local language). In the reign of Daoguang Emperor in the Qing dynasty, tan huang was developed as duizixi (two people sing at one stage) and tongchangxi (more than three people perform accompanied by the music played by other person). In the 1898, some artisans entered Shanghai and performed in a tea house, called bentan. In 1914, bentan was changed to shen song. After 1927, Shen Song began to perform the modern drama and political drama.  In 1941, with the founding of the Shanghai Shanghai Opera Organization, Shen Song was renamed the Shanghai Opera (Huju). 

Huju is a tender and graceful opera with the appeal of regions south of the Yangtze River, the back music is folk songs which formed various melodies and styles later. Shanghai opera is type of singing performance with story telling integrated with expressive emotions, and the tune divided into banqiang style and qupai. Banqiang style is a basic tune, which is widely used by the huju. The performers includes actors, have different singing styles. Meanwhile, most of the qupai are folk songs in the Qing and Ming dynasty, talking and singing of folk qupai and popular songs in Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The principal musical instrument of the kunqu is erhu (two-stringed fiddle), and accompanied by some traditional Chinese instruments, including pipa (pear-shaped lute), yangqin (hammered dulcimer), sanxian (a three-stringed plucked instrument), dizi (transverse bamboo flute), and xiao (a vertical bamboo flute). Later, some of Guangdong instrumentations, Jiangnan sizhu (string and wind musical instruments used in the area south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River) and Guangdong songs were absorbed in the opera.

The roles of huju vary over time. During the period of duzexi, there were two roles one is sheng, the other is dan, in the period of tongchangxi, chou, and sheng was included. The sheng roles have laosheng (aged male roles), and xiaosheng (young male roles), xiaosheng was divided into zhengchang and fengliu xiaosheng. Dan roles were called Baotou, including zhengchang Baotou, niangniang Baotou, hua Baotou, lao Baotou, lata Baotou and so on. At the time there were not enough performers, one people need to play more than one roles. With the development of the Shanghai opera, the division of roles is fading, motion and words are not limited within roles, songs are sung by the natural voice. There are repertoires including traditional plays like Meeting in the Buddhist Convent, Yang Nai-wu & Hsiao Pai-tsai, The Pearl Tower, Menglijun, Double pearl phoenix. And modern plays like Begonia evansiania, Home, Thunderstorms, Luohan money and others.

Huju represents the regional culture of shanghai, with vitality and power in its growth, it reflects metropolitan of the modern china from a different respect. With the accelerated urbanization in recent years, it is harder and harder for huju to survive, because the market and audience are shrinking. Huju performers do not want to continue to do the business because of the low compensation. In the south of the lower corner of the Yangtze River, only 3 out of 10 huju troupes survive, which demonstrates the need for this to be preserved.