Huangmei opera

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Huangmei opera performance in Shanghai, featuring two female performers

Huangmei or Huangmei tone (黃梅戲 or 黃梅調, pinyin: Huángméixì or Huángméidiào) originated as a form of rural folksong and dance that has been in existence for the last 200 years and possibly longer. The music is performed with a pitch that hits high and stays high for the duration of the song. It is unique in the sense that it does not sound like the typical rhythmic Chinese opera. In the 1960s Hong Kong counted the style as much as an opera as it was a music genre. Today it is more of a traditional performance art with efforts of revival in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and mostly sung in Mandarin.

Huangmei Government at Hubei province was officially considered as the place of origin of Huangmei opera.


Informal performance of Huangmei opera


About the only thing certain is that this art came from China. It became a part of the operatic genre at the Anqing region of southwestern Anhui province. It first appeared as a simple drama of song and dance at the Huangmei county in the Lanyang plateau in southeastern Hubei province a hundred years ago before it became the operatic form with costumes and additional roles. The music was simple and short.

Huangmei opera did not involve the traditional opera gestures which often used the sleeves and step movements. It was also not performed on stage initially but as a kind of roving troupe performance.

A huangmei opera song by veteran artist Ivy Ling Po partnering with Jenny Tseng

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Hong Kong[edit]

The theme of Huangmei opera began to expand with its initial introduction in Hong Kong via the 1959 film The Kingdom and the Beauty (江山美人). The art form is believed to have come from the massive wave of immigrants from mainland China to Hong Kong in the 1950s. The film that peaked the music genre was the 1963 The Love Eterne.[1] The audience was attracted by the rewritten music style which combined both Chinese and Western musical instruments The tempo was also livelier and faster than the traditional opera. During this period, many Huangmei films were made, evolving into various forms and combinations, which later included wuxia sword fights. Because the genre have such a heavy association with romance films like The Love Eterne, it is sometimes preferred that the singing be done with a male and a female pair.

There have only been a handful of big name Huangmei tone artists in Hong Kong. Betty Loh Ti and Ivy Ling Po, Tsin Ting are some examples.


Huangmei costumes are generally less extravagant compared to the other Chinese opera branches. There is usually a greater emphasis on the singing than the display. In Hong Kong there is not necessarily a requirement to wear any traditional Chinese opera attire. An example is the cantopop artist Jenny Tseng singing Huangmei style music with Ivy Ling Po in a concert.


  1. ^ Berry, Michael. [2005] (2005). Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-13330-8

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