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Sichuan Opera Singer Shen Tiemei

http://www.chinese.cn 14:11, August 26, 2009 Show China

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Shen Tiemei is one of today's most accomplished Sichuan opera performers.
Shen Tiemei is one of today's most accomplished Sichuan opera performers

With heart and soul invested in her career, Sichuan Opera singer Shen Tiemei has pushed the declining traditional genre to a new historic high. Single handedly she has taken on the challenge to breathe new life into the centuries-old operatic genre. On Today's the List, we look at her career orbit as today's most outstanding Sichuan Opera artist.

A land nurtures its people according to its natural environment. In China, every part of the land inspires an operatic tradition, distinctive to its region.

Sichuan Opera, prevailed in its home province for centuries, giving voice to the values and cultural essence of the people. Shen Tiemei, one of today's most accomplished Sichuan opera performers, sees an inseparable connection between opera, her identity and the identity of the people of Sichuan.

Shen Tiemei, Sichuan opera artist, said, "Sichuan Opera links to the entire province of Sichuan. The quality of Sichuan people was most evidently exposed after this year's Wenchuan earthquake. The people showed the world their solidarity, bravery, optimism and humor even though faced with disaster. These qualities are embodied and reflected in the classic works of Sichuan Opera."

Ancient totem worship and tribal beliefs played a crucial part in shaping the Sichuan Opera. During its long evolution, magic and acrobatics came to enrich performances in a way no other regional opera in China can equal. The physical accomplishments of performers became so riveting that the role of the singer retreated and was diminished.

Shen Tiemei emerged at a critical moment as the genre sought to revive its rich vocal tradition. Endowed with a mellow voice and beautiful articulation, Shen sang her way to the pinnacle of opera. She also said, "I was told by some fans that they didn't enjoy Sichuan Opera but found my singing quite engaging. I think my varied training served me well. I learnt Peking Opera in my childhood. Later I learned to sing folk ballads. Peking Opera, in particular,exerted a tremendous influence in shaping my vocal qualities."

Shen Tiemei is one of today's most accomplished Sichuan opera performers.
Shen Tiemei is one of today's most accomplished Sichuan opera performers.

Her father was a Peking Opera artist--her mother a Sichuan Opera singer. Shen Tiemei paints her early life as one of total immersion in the routines of practicing opera, the traditional way.

She has portrayed nearly all protagonists in the Sichuan Opera repertoire. She was twice feted with the country's most prestigious opera honour, the "Plum Blossom Awards."

In 1997, Shen Tiemei added a new dimension to the traditional opera by adapting a contemporary play on the stage. "Jin Zi", was loosely based on playwright Cao Yu's tragedy "The Wilderness." The work, set in the 1920's, has received sterling reviews since its debut. Shen was credited with bringing to life the role of Jin Zi -- whose character is a reversal from the traditional, obedient Chinese woman."Many audiences were so impressed with the play that they equated Jin Zi to me. Those who know me saw similarities to Jin Zi as well. We are both forthright by nature-- honest with our own feelings, no matter what the external pressures. "

Now in her forties, Shen Tiemei's schedule remains full. Even when not performing, she devotes herself to communicating China's operatic traditions to more and more

people. " Traditional opera is no longer mainstream art. That fact is indisputable. People today have a wide choice of entertainment. But -- as long as there remains a group that understands and appreciates it, the opera will not lose its vitality."

Shen Tiemei is doing more than her part -- working with dedication as performer and ambassador, helping to restore Sichuan Opera to its traditional roots and its former popularity.


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