Peking opera master Mei Baojiu dies at 82

CCTV News

Peking opera great Mei Baojiu performing on CCTV in 1994.PHOTO: XINHUA Peking opera great Mei Baojiu performing on CCTV in 1994.PHOTO: XINHUA

Mei Baojiu, the famous Peking opera performer and son of a legendary Chinese theater mogul, died at the age of 82 on Monday in Beijing.

Mei fell into a coma following a bronchial spasm and died at 11 a.m. local time in the hospital, according to the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing.

Born on March 29, 1934 in Shanghai, Mei Baojiu was the ninth child and successor of Mei Lanfang. He started learning Peking Opera when he was 10, and first took to the stage with his father at 18. He was regarded as a great contributor to traditional art across the country.

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Mei Baojiu (L) and Mei Lanfang/File Photo

As a successor of his superstar father, Mei Baojiu was the only one of his peers to play female “Dan” role, like his father. He was famous for his performances in such classical operas as “Farewell My Concubine (霸王别姬),” “The Drunken Beauty (贵妃醉酒),” and “Lady General Mu Takes Command (穆桂英挂帅).”

Video: Who is Mei Baojiu?

“I looked most like my dad compared to my brothers, and because I was able to sing in falsetto, my dad chose me to learn the female role,” the master told CCTVNEWS in an exclusive interview two years ago.

Winning acclaim for his performances on stage was only one aspect of Mei Baojiu’s life-long ambitions. He went on to lead the famed Mei Lanfang Peking opera troupe under the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing.

His father, Mei Lanfang, was one of the most respected Chinese artists of the 20th century. He created the “Mei School” style of Peking opera, which was know as the nandan performance — a male actor who plays female roles. Mei Lanfang was famous in the West for being the first person to introduce Peking Opera to the West after travelling to Europe and the U.S..  

Left Photo: Mei Baojiu took the Mei Lanfang Peking opera troupe to the US in 2014/Right File Photo: Charlie Chaplin and Mei Lanfang

Left Photo: Mei Baojiu took the Mei Lanfang Peking opera troupe to the US in 2014/Right File Photo: Charlie Chaplin and Mei Lanfang

Peking Opera, which combined song, speech, dance, and martial arts, is a Chinese traditional theatrical art that began in the 18th century.

Video:From the archives: Peking Opera artist Mei Baojiu performs ‘Drunken Beauty’.

People today may wonder why female characters are played by men in Peking opera? Watch CCTV’s National Treasure Archive to explore.  

Story from CCTV, Xinhua.