Music: Chinese Opera: Gongs & Whiteface

It seemed a cultural crime. In mainland China during the late 1960s, as part of Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution, the ancient art of Peking opera was deliberately put to death. The person responsible was Mao's wife, Chinese Cultural Queen Chiang Ching. To Madame Mao, Peking opera was bourgeois, reactionary, too concerned with court life. She replaced it with an unadorned, realistic style of opera that celebrates the struggles of workers, peasants and soldiers against landlords and imperialists. Gone forever, or so it seemed, were the highly stylized music dramas about kings and concubines, scholars and lute-playing ladies. Gone, too, were the...

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