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Dynamic diva famed for roles as refined men
By Nie Xin

ELEGANT, subtle and romantic Yueju Opera is usually performed by women only and Qian Huili is a master of the classic Hsiao Sheng role, usually a refined young scholar or nobleman in a love story.

Qian, vice director of the Shanghai Yueju Opera House, has been performing for more than 30 years and is famous for roles in many classics, such as "Lin Daiyu Falls from Heaven" and "Leaving Han." Born in the 1960s, Qian studied with Yueju opera master Xu Yulan.

Qian aims to appeal to foreign music and opera lovers who may not be familiar with delicate Yueju Opera, and she is releasing her eighth album in an overseas version as well as the version for sale in China. It is post-produced in Germany and the CD produced in Austria for the highest acoustic quality. The other version is excellent as well, she said.

The album will be released on Saturday, November 3, at Shanghai Exhibition Center. Qian will hold a press conference, sign albums for fans and perform several classic arias at that time. The album is titled "A Match Made in Heaven - Qian Huili Performs Classic Zhejiang Yueju Opera Arias."

The album contains 15 arias, including "Emerald Pool," "Lin Daiyu Falls from Heaven" and "A Match Made in Heaven."

Qian is now giving a performance in Los Angeles, United States.

Yueju Opera (or Yueju) is one of China's youngest regional operas, arising in the early 20th century in East China's Zhejiang Province. It was first performed in Shanghai in 1917 and later flourished. It was not until 1938, when all-women Yueju troupes became popular in Shanghai, that the name Yueju was adopted. Yue is the ancient name of Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province. It was previously called "xiaoge ban" or "small-song troupe" and was based on a local form of musical storytelling.

Qian took time out from tutoring and rehearsing with young performers to talk to Shanghai Daily at Shanghai Yueju Opera House.

Q: Why this CD is released in two versions?

A: My album "Yue from the Heart" released in 2009 took me four years to record and the 12-CD collection represent almost all of my arias.

In the new album I hope to bring songs not only to my fans who love Yueju Opera but also give music lovers a chance to know about Yueju Opera. The one recorded and made in Shanghai is of good quality as well but the special version with delicate original sound effects post-produced in Europe is to attract more people who may not be familiar with Yueju Opera but are attracted purely by the sound.

Q: What are your views on preserving traditional performing arts and creativity?

A: It is a big job to protect and pass on our traditional arts from our ancestors. The works that get the most applause are always the classics. I also agree that artists need to be creative and have space for development. Most people hope their distinctive personal creativity will be appreciated by others. But new creation needs a sound basis - you should take the essence of the traditional; heritage is very important.

I have been awarded prizes and most of them encourage people to create some new roles and plays for traditional opera. Although some new additions to traditional arts can catch more attention, we cannot forget the roots. I admire those artists who insist on the heritage of traditional arts and try to popularize traditional art with its original face.

Q: When you perform abroad, what do you hope to bring to foreign audiences?

A: Now we use some electronic music and synthesizer in our performances in China to make the music rich. But we hope to take the simplest Chinese string music to the stage overseas and select different arias to perform. In my new album I use typical Chinese string and diverse arias. When I build a role, I am not Qian Huili, I am the role in the opera. I hope my audience forgets me, the performer, and is absorbed into the show.

Q: What is the secret of your success and your advice to young artists?

A: Besides hard work on basic knowledge and training, the secret to being a good artist is always to "keep it simple" in your life and not to be disturbed by other things apart from the stage. Although it is hard to get rid of all commercial concerns or personal issues, we should try our best to get into our roles on stage. Love the art and the role you build on stage!

Q: You were diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 but continued performing. Why?

A: I have had many hard moments in my life, but I still performed though my parents had passed away and when I was more than six months' pregnant. My principle is to do your best. I don't want my audience to pay a lot of attention to that (personal problems), because I don't want them to enjoy my performance under pressure.

Meeting with fans (and short performce)

Date: November 3, 2pm

Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center (1000 Yan'an Rd W.)

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