Wu Fenghua:Yueju Opera Artist


文化交流 2019年1期

Xu Jihong

Wu Fenghua started her Yueju Opera career in 1986 after three years of learning the tradition in a theater school in Shaoxing, a city in the east of Zhejiang where Yueju Opera originated and has prospered.Since 1986 she has had a large fandom not only in Zhejiang Province but across the country. At the end of 2018, Shaoxing Xiaobaihua Yueju Opera Troupe staged a play in Shaoxing and the fans of Wu Fenghua came all the way from across Zhejiang as well as from neighboring Jiangxi and Jiangsu provinces. A few years ago,Wu Fenghua performed in Shanxi in northern China and flower baskets sent by her fans spilled over all the way from the theater foyer to the street.

Born in 1970, Wu Fenghua plays the role of Xiaosheng, a stereotyped role for handsome young male role in Chinese regionaloperas. Nowadays Yueju Opera is traditionally a all-women phenomenon. Wu acts as a man and has made herself a reputation for song, citation and Kungfu. She is twice a recipient of Plum Flower Award, Chinas highest theater accolade.

She has run into many challenges in her career, especially in the early years. About ten years ago, her face was somewhat damaged by lead overdose in facial makeup paint. Her face became allergic to paint. The face darkened and the brows fell off. Though she has recovered somewhat from the face damage, she still applies thick base layers onto her face before painting her face more before performance.The damage made her desperate. In some dark m o m e n t s , s h e e v e n thought of giving up the career. But she persisted. As soon as her face was covered with paint, she became optimistic and stopped worrying. For years, she has stayed away from camera interviews close at hand. “My face cant bear such cruel scrutiny,” said the performing artist.

What the stage has done to her is more than the facial damage. She remembers April 15, 1998 when she performed in Wuhan, a key city in central China. She had had a high fever for more than ten days. She was so weak on the stage that she made a mistake in a difficulty kungfu jump. Something in her body seemed to have snapped. But she managed to get to the painful end of the play. After the performance, she was sent to hospital immediately. It turned out that she had fraction in two thoracic vertebras.

In April 2018 she was engaged in a Yueju Opera play filming project when her mother fell ill and her father-in-law passed away.

For a while, she had to take care of her mother and attended the funeral things and kept the filming project going. For a few days she slept a few hours every day. She fell in a rehearsal and got a bone fraction in her arm. She finished the filming with the hand bandaged tightly.

吳凤花在《狸猫换太子》中饰演陈琳。Wu Fenghua as Chen Lin in a Yueju Opera play

吴凤花在后台装扮。Wu Fenghua in the dressing room before a show

“My career is full of challenges. Some people dont understand why I still go at it after so many setbacks, but I have my aspirations.Since I have such a gift and I am successful and I have a platform, I have no reason to let it go,” said the artist in a press interview.

Wu does have a gift for stage. In 1983, the 13-year-old girl emerged in the recruitment competition in which more than 10,000 local girls participated. She was among the first group of students enrolled by the Shaoxing County Theater School. She graduated with top honors in 1986 and became the leading Xiaosheng actor Shaoxing Xiaobaihua Yueju Opera Troupe.

On December 25, 1987, she became an apprentice of Fan Ruijuan,a famous Yueju Opera Xiaosheng actor. A ceremony was held to mark the establishment and commencement of the master-disciple relationship. Since 1986, Wu Fenghua has appeared in about 20 major plays and 10 highlights shows.

Wu Fenghua has every reason to be proud of her career success and the large fandom. She performs in over 100 shows a year as the troupe spends a lot of time touring rural theaters across the province.Her name pulls audiences in.

Yueju Opera has enjoyed national influence for decades. Nowadays,the Shaoxing Xiaobaihua Yueju Opera Troupe keeps a busy schedule. It performs in rural theaters around Zhejiang and it performs in theaters in foreign countries. Wu and her colleagues have performed in USA, France, Australia, Thailand, Austria, and Singapore.Among audiences are not only those from overseas Chinese communities but also local residents.


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