“Master Qi and the Monkey King”
Meet Qi Shu Fang
Qi Shu Fang is the master of Chinese opera and her name was one everyone in China knew. She now lives in the United States. The role that brought her fame was in one of the Cultural Revolution Opera films, and she traveled the world to show off her mastery of the art form. The film explores the reasons why Ms. Qi, her husband and a whole troupe of Chinese Opera performers have moved to the United States to transplant their art form to a foreign culture. This film follows the Queens based opera troupe and in doing so we get quite a different look at immigration in America in addition to learning about Chinese opera. Directed by Alan Govenar, he shows us the wonderful costumes, music and acrobatics that are part of this art form. At the center of this is Qi Shu Fang and we hear why she and her husband and the entire troupe moved to the United States.
“Qi Shu Fang was born in 1943 in Shanghai, China. She began studying Beijing Opera at age four. When she got older, she enrolled at the Shanghai Dramatic School and studied with her sister-in-law, a renowned actress and a skilled wu-dan, or woman warrior. Later, she studied with a male teacher and now can play roles of either sex with great skill. Beijing Opera roles are highly defined and stylized, and actors specialize. Qi Shu Fang is unique in mastering both the wu-dan and hua-dan, or vivacious young woman, roles because of her martial arts skills and exceptional voice”.
The Beijing Opera has traditionally been dominated by men who also sang the female roles. However, after 1949, women began to be seen as performers. Qi was very important as that happened and she advocated for more roles to be sung by women. She began to win awards, was praised and her reputation grew. She is known not just for her voice but also as an actress and was very good at martial arts.
She came to America in 1988, to New York City, where she began her own opera house. She was soon regarded as a star here and her company has been hailed everywhere. Her story is the story of struggle, ambition and love. Above all it is the story of facing pressures to assimilate while remaining true to her own culture. The film concentrates on the role she played in “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy”, a documentary that she was featured in and while the documentary film is straight-forward, it is engrossing and beautifully filmed.
- Posted in: Film