High tech an effective means to ensure future of Peking Opera
Published: Mar 12, 2023 11:42 PM
Mei Lanfang Hua — an exhibition about the art of Mei Lanfang opens on Wednesday. Photo:Li Hao/GT

Mei Lanfang Hua — an exhibition about the art of Mei Lanfang opens on Wednesday. Photo:Li Hao/GT

At the ongoing two sessions, Peking Opera actress Dong Yuanyuan proposed integrating the art of Peking Opera with digital technology to vie for more young audiences.

Peking Opera is seen as a national treasure in China. However, due to the today's rapid social changes, the art form is becoming more and more alienated, especially by younger generations. For this reason, how to pass on this traditional art and align it with the interests of young people have been a hot topic of debate in Chinese Opera circles in the past few decades. In this sense, Dong's proposal might be one of the more effective ways to help resolve the problem. 

In November 2021, the "Digital Mei Lanfang" project was launched in Beijing. The late Mei Lanfang (1894-1961) was famous for creating and acting in numerous renowned Peking operas plays. Now, he is once again able to "appear" in front of audiences thanks to digital technology. "I got very excited and emotional when I saw that Master Mei was 'really talking' to us on stage," Dong, an inheritor of the Mei Lanfang School, said. 

Since then, she has worked hard to deeply integrate the traditional Chinese art with modern technology so that the third and fourth generation of actresses from the Mei Lanfang School could perform "simultaneously" with the master on stage. 

In 2022, a Peking Opera film was also shot with the techniques of LED virtual. This has provided a very different experience for opera-lovers and piqued the interest of some young people. This result was "most gratifying," said Dong. 

In addition, more flexible means should be adopted to promote Peking Opera. Dong suggests that traditional artistic elements, such as tunes from Peking Opera, could also be used in pop songs in an ancient Chinese style. So far, a dozen such songs have been very well-received by audiences, including young people. They have not only helped audiences familiarize with Peking Opera, but also popularized the art form in a way easily accepted by young people. 

A digital human is a human being that exists in the digital world. It is created by making digital copies of the movements of the target and then accurately reconstructing the figure in the digital world. However, there are many obstacles to overcome. 

When making the digital image of Master Mei, it was very difficult to imitate his facial expressions and voice as well as the materials his costumes were made out of since they had been lost to time. According to a tech expert, this project "was not only a process of technological implementation, but also one that integrated technology with traditional culture. So there is still a long way to go before a digital Peking Opera human with real-time interaction capability is created."  

Regardless, a digital Mei Lanfang is a good beginning, a breakthrough in promoting Peking Opera and other traditional art forms. Therefore, all levels of society should pay attention and lend their support to this endeavor, experts said.