Chinese Traditional with Qian Yi
Meet the Artist
Qian Yi began her study of classical Chinese opera (Kunqu) at the Shanghai Theatre Academy’s Chinese Opera School at age 10. Since coming to the US, she has performed classical and contemporary Chinese theater at the Lincoln Center Festival, where she played the lead role in the 19-hour opera The Peony Pavilion, and Spoleto Festival USA, as well as at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. has called Qian Yi, “China’s reigning opera princess.” In 2008, Qian Yi made her western opera debut in the title role of The Bonesetter’s Daughter at the San Francisco Opera. In 2013, she created and produced a contemporary Chinese musical called Dreaming of the Phoenix for the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Artist and Genre Overview
Chinese traditional music refers to an array of musical traditions performed primarily in rural areas and communities, growing out of the music of peasants during the Imperial Era. These traditions included styles of Chinese opera that were often unique from the operas performed for the emperors. Even when performed by folk troupes in rural towns, Chinese opera brings music together with dance, pantomime, acting, costuming, and staging. Both folk music and opera from China use pentatonic scales, and can include string, woodwind, and percussion instruments. Singers often perform solo or in unison with accompanying instruments. In vocal performance, musicians often place a strong emphasis on expression and melisma.
Qian Yi performs a wide range of Chinese music, but she is most closely associated with opera. She began her study of Kunqu, an aristocratic style of opera, at the Shanghai Chinese Opera School at age 10. She came to the US to perform the lead role in the 19-hour opera The Peony Pavilion almost 20 years ago, and has continued to bring her extensive knowledge of Chinese traditional music to American audiences as both a performer and educator ever since.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Visit qianyiarts.com to hear more of Qian Yi’s music.
- Chinese Opera: Songs and Music, Smithsonian Folkways
- China, Smithsonian Folkways
- Peking Opera, CCTV
- Chinese Musical Instruments Part 1, CCTV
- Chinese Musical Instruments Part 2, CCTV
New York City Resources
- Flushing, Queens; Sunset Park, Brooklyn; and Chinatown, Manhattan all have large Chinese communities, including restaurants, stores, schools, and cultural resources.
- New York Chinese Opera Society and Youth Troupe of the NYCOS, an organization that promotes the artistic development of Chinese culture and opera
- Museum of Chinese in America, a museum dedicated to preserving and telling the history of people of Chinese descent in the US
- Chinese Theatre Works, an organization that promotes original productions, traditional performances, and community education for Chinese theatrical genres
- A New Year’s Reunion, Yu Li-Qiong