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HujuTraditional Opera in Modern Shanghai$
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Jonathan P. J. Stock

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262733

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262733.001.0001

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Huju and The Politics of Revolution, POST-1949

Huju and The Politics of Revolution, POST-1949

(p.157) 4 Huju and The Politics of Revolution, POST-1949

Jonathan P. J. Stock

British Academy

This chapter examines how music becomes inscribed with social power. Topics considered include the reorganization of huju troupes in the new People's Republic of China, post-1949; the impact of the specialist composer since the 1950s; the changing role of the performer; and the expression of political content in dramatic situations, words, actions, and music. Regional opera styles, such as Shanghai opera, it turns out, led the way in the reform of traditional opera in mainland China, with adaptations applied in these styles later transplanted to more established historical forms such as Beijing opera. It is argued that music in huju makes a special contribution to the ‘envoicing’ of the weak, a tendency that becomes problematic at times when the ordinary folk who people these operas must be portrayed as dauntless revolutionaries. Ironically, perhaps, the operas produced at the most publicly politicized periods of China's recent history are those that now appear the least eloquent in terms of their political argument.

Keywords:   Chinese music, social power, specialist composer, Shanghai opera

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