Feature: Peking Opera pedagogue echoes with students in Ottawa
OTTAWA, April 7 (Xinhua) — Zhao Qun attains high spirit and sense of achievement while juggling between high schools and colleges in Ottawa to familiarize her students with Peking Opera, a most prominent classical art in China.
"Vocal expression, as well as body and eyeball movements, can override the linguistic barrier and make known to all what the performance means," said Zhao, who came from China's Shanghai Theater Academy for Chinese culture proliferation under the arrangement of the Confucius Institute.
Dozens of Canadian students are fascinated with her lectures which combine tactful solo of classical snippets with interactive duets.
Cultural background and story interpretation are provided, so that the junior learners can copy tones and gestures to the core of their original meaning.
"There are many less students here. Most of the time I do one-on-one sessions. With more children, the job will be harder to deliver," said the 40-year-old Zhao in the class room of the Ashbury College, a leading independent coeducational school for 4th to 12th graders established in 1891.
Ottawa has been the latest overseas stop for Zhao, who once performed and lectured in over 15 countries including the United States, Britain, Denmark, Iran, Australia, Republic of Korea and Singapore.
Another day with the sophomores majoring in Western opera at the Carleton University in Ottawa, Zhao has more sophisticated agendas to accomplish.
"I repeatedly tell them to slow down their tempo. Peking Opera soothes along. If you go up fast, it is not Peking Opera any more," said Zhao, who is dispatched here upon her capacity as Director of the Opera Performance Department of the Shanghai Theatre Academy.
For the Carleton sophomores, learning from the leading Peking Opera scholar and performer is all but a challenging task. Both language and artistry are holistically strange and hard to tackle.
"Mandarin is very different from Italian or English or German in the sense that it has specific intonations and that you have to use on certain words otherwise it changes the meaning," Rebecca Eagle told Xinhua.
"With the music specifically there are parts where you have to breathe in the middle of a word which as far as Western classical music is concerned is wrong," she added.
Though facing hurdles on the way, a very deep interest in Chinese culture and art has miraculously entangled young Canadians like Eagle with Zhao.
"In performing Peking Opera, reverberation is gained between the eyebrows, but not within head. Besides, its vocalization and rhythm are rooted in a pattern basically foreign to Western opera practitioners," said Zhao, who has been dedicated to the art since adolescence, working in succession in China's major cities like Shanghai and Tianjin.
Peking Opera has been long deemed as one the ancient gems of Chinese culture. The government has enshrined many ways and channels to preserve its essence, embracing history and core episodes.
Introducing the art to overseas aficionados is one of the endeavors made by officially approved organizations like the Confucius Institute to help foreigners know better and more about its originating country.
To Zhao's surprise, her Carleton students are including their latest learning as one of the seven scenes in their upcoming work which explores man's relationship with technology.
"You see, opera has transcending powers," added Zhao.