Chinese New Year Celebrations Feature Captivating Opera Stars and Artists

Singers, dancers, and musicians performing at the Chinese New Year Celebration.
Singers, dancers, and musicians performing at the Chinese New Year Celebration.

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, CIMU sponsored and co-hosted two events on Feb 4 and Feb 5: a fabulous Chinese New Year Celebration Concert in Hall Auditorium and a family-friendly Chinese New Year Gala at Matthews Auditorium and Performing Arts Center Cincinnati. Both of these events featured two very special guests from China: top-tier opera stars Kuizhi Yu and Shengsu Li of the famous Peking Opera Troupe in China!

Ms. Li, President Crawford, and Mr. YuRon Scott.Before their first performance, Mr. Yu and Ms. Li were welcomed with a tour around campus, where they were met and greeted by President Crawford, Provost Phyllis Callahan, VP of Diversity Affairs Ron Scott, and Dean of the College of Creative Arts Elizabeth Mullenix. After their meet-and-greet tour, Mr. Yu and Ms. Li visited a class for theater majors and delivered a presentation on Beijing Opera, complete with demonstrations and interactive activities. The students were very excited to talk face-to-face with the two masters of Chinese Peking opera. This was a very special opportunity for the students, allowing them to engage with Peking opera on a much more meaningful level.

Immediately after the class visit, Mr. Yu and Ms. Li went to McGuffey Hall to host a Peking Opera Arts workshop for Chinese students and faculty at Miami University, during which time Mr. Yu gave some sincere advice. He explained that despite his humble beginnings, he was able to achieve the highest level of success as an opera singer because he worked as hard as he could. Mr. Yu practiced and rehearsed for 13 years before he performed in a professional opera, and even then he realized that he had much more to learn. He advised the students to appreciate their opportunities and to work and study hard.

Li and Yu teaching in a classroomLi and Yu in discussion with students.The first event, co-hosted with the Miami University Performing Arts Series and the Chinese American Cultural Association, was held in Miami University’s Hall Auditorium on Saturday Feb 4 and consisted of eight unique and captivating performances. First, Mr. Yu and Ms. Li delivered a presentation on the art of Beijing Opera, which takes many years to learn and master. The two opera stars explained the intricate movements, costumes, and choreography that accompany each performance, complete with demonstrations and audience participation. The elegantly dressed singers also sang several excerpts from roles they have performed in the past.

After the opera performance, the audience enjoyed traditional dances from CIMU Lion Dance Club (“Lion Dance,”) and traditional music from CIMU Music Ensemble (“Miracle, and “Tian Lu”), performances of covers and original pop songs by famous Chinese artist Echo, dance routines (with a talented beatboxer!) performed by the Miami University DyzzeeStepperz Dance Crew, and a selection of covers and original songs performed by the popular American YouTube artist Tiffany Alvord. The final performance of the evening featured a beautifully choreographed show entitled “The Country of Rites,” which combined calligraphy, dance, and a lovely display of Han dynasty costumes.

The audience responded warmly to each section, continually showing support and enjoyment by laughing, singing along, volunteering to participate in the interactive activities, and applauding heavily for each artist and group.

Participants sampling food.On Sunday February 5, the second event, co-hosted with Local Blue Ash Chinese Schools, was held in Matthews Auditorium in Cincinnati. Approximately 1,000 people came to enjoy the cultural booths and performances offered that day.

Families bustled around cultural booths outside of Matthews Auditorium before the performances, enjoying food, games, calligraphy demonstrations, tea ceremony and samples, art displays, costumes and sets for picture-taking, face painting, and more.

One participant, a woman attending the event with her daughter, commented that it seemed like a really nice family event. “Women of all ages seem to be drawn to the costumes,” she said, referring to the set where women were trying on costumes and posing as family members took pictures, “and I think the children are having fun!”

Everyone gathered in the auditorium to enjoy performances by the Peking Opera Troupe stars and a number of local performers, preceded by introductory statements from Song Jin (president of Greater Cincinnati Chinese School), Chen Zhao (director of CIMU), and Kuizhi Yu (national Class-I actor, vice president and artistic director of the Chinese National Peking Opera Company).

The performances commenced with two choral pieces, performed by the GCCS Long Xing Arts Group. Next, performers from the Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center performed four dance routines. After that, the Cincinnati Chinese Traditional Music Ensemble performed “Deeply into the Night,” an adapted piece from a Peking Opera called “Ba Wang Bie Ji.” Finally, Mr. Yu presented another vivid lecture on Peking Opera Arts. He also explained the meaningful movements, colorful costumes, and choreography that accompany each performance, which went together with demonstrations and audience active participation. Finally, Mr. Yu and Ms. Li sang several Peking Opera excerpts together.

Overall, the two Chinese New Year celebrations were a resounding success, thanks to the generous effort of all who participated! This has been a tremendous opportunity for community outreach, cultural exposure, education in the arts, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the fascinating delights of Beijing Opera.