Arias are very important parts in a play. Beijing Opera is nicknamed as "Pi Huang Opera" because Xi Pi and Er Huang melodies form the base of its arias. Xi Pi is believed taken from Hubei Opera which was formed under the influence of Shaanxi Opera (or Qing Qiang). Er Huang is from Anhui Opera. Xi Pi, generally quick, fluent and light, expresses happiness or agitation and excitement. Er Huang is stable and strong and is generally used to express a thinking mood. Each melody has a lot of variations and thus is not really bounded by the above definition.
The timing of a melody is indicated by Ban and Yan. Ban is the accented or strong beat while the Yan the unaccented or weak beat. Xi Pi starts from the weak and Er Huang starts from a strong beat. There are common and different tempos. The former includes Dao Ban or starting timing, Man Ban or slow timing, Yuan Ban or medium time, Kuai Ban or quick timing and San Ban or free timing etc. Man Ban is used for thinking or self-talking. Yuan Ban and Kuan Ban are for narrative and excitement or happiness, respectively. Qing Yi, Hua Dan, Dao Ma Dan, Guei Men Dan and Xiao Sheng use high-pitched, falsetto voices. The singing and speak of a Xiao Sheng are hard to perform. The player must alter his voice and impose a great strain on his voice in both cases. Jing, Lao Sheng, Lao Dan and Chou all sing in natural voices. But the painted face actor's voice is a resonant and deep sound. This voice is applied all the time to both singing and speaking.
Speak in Beijing Opera is as important as the arias. There are two types of voices. One is Yun Bai, a constrained and poetical voice, and the other is Jing Bai, the natural voice.
First edition: November 11, 1995
Last revision: February 2, 1998
Copyright 1995-1998 by Xu-Ming Wang. Reprinted by permission
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