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Guest Lecture | Wei Hai Min and Her Personae: Jingju in Our Time

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This 90-minute talk starts with an introduction of Mei Lanfang, one of the greatest jingju artists. Drawing on various performance traditions, jingju was an operatic theatre developed in Beijing in the late 18th century. An all-male and total theatre incorporating music, dance, and acrobatics, it soon became widely popular and a favorite imperial entertainment. Mei re-invented jingju with his exquisite cross-gender impersonation of female roles from elegant ladies, patient wives, and graceful fairies to valiant warriors. His art and charisma won him global acclaim and influenced Bertolt Brecht’s “alienation effect.” A disciple of Mei Baojiu, Mei Lanfang’s son and heir, Wei Hai Min will demonstrate an aria from Mei’s masterpiece The Drunken Concubine.

Wei will then speak on her career as not only an inheritor of a great tradition but also an innovator and a cross-cultural ambassador. Her interpretation of traditional and original titles features psychological depth and contemporary relevance. Among her most celebrated roles are Lady Aoshu, Medea, Cao Qiqiao, Cleopatra, Meng Xiaodong, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. She will demonstrate a speech and movement from The Kingdom of Desire (Macbeth) and an aria from Medea to show her creative approaches to characterization.


Photo by Rung-Lu Lin

Wei Hai Min is universally considered to be the preeminent Chinese Opera actress and singer in the Sinophone world. Ms. Wei has won numerous awards and accolades, most notably the Plum Blossom Award, the highest honor for traditional Chinese theater in China, the National Award for Arts in Taiwan, the Global Chinese Culture Art Contribution Award, and the Outstanding Asian Artist Prize from the Society of Chinese American Culture and Arts. A household name and cultural ambassador, Ms. Wei is considered to be a national treasure and a major force in revolutionizing Chinese Opera globally.

A dazzling performing artist from the age of 13, Ms. Wei had the distinct honor of being handpicked as the first publicly acknowledged formal disciple of Mei Baojiu, son of Chinese Opera master Mei Lanfang and heir to the Mei School. Over the last three decades, Ms. Wei has sought to carry on the legacy of the Mei School by following Mei Lanfang’s footsteps as a Chinese Opera innovator and educator. Her endeavors to promote traditional Chinese Theater are unwavering. In June 2023, Ms. Wei formally accepted three new disciples into the Mei School as fourth-generation practitioners — a momentous occasion in the Chinese Opera world.

Despite her fame and revered status, Ms. Wei never ceases to challenge herself. Ms. Wei consistently takes on roles that break traditional barriers and is not afraid to take risks as a Chinese Opera innovator. Ms. Wei has been at the forefront of mastering this ancient art form in both the traditional and modern styles, actively exploring new performative horizons. Since the 1980s, Ms. Wei has performed in more than one hundred Chinese Opera shows. Ms. Wei has starred in Contemporary Legend Theatre’s rendition of Greek tragedies and Shakespearean plays such as The Kingdom of Desire, Medea, explored innovative environmental theater with director Richard Schechner in Oresteia, and collaborated with American experimental playwright-director Robert Wilson in the Chinese Opera reinterpretation of Orlando by Virginia Woolf. Ms. Wei never ceases to amaze the audience with the diverse roles she has created, be they noble, shrewish, or melancholic, Wei impersonates them vividly with grace, flair, and artistic excellence. She not only masters but even redefines the art of Chinese Opera performance, bestowing the stage with numerous unforgettable characters.

Ms. Wei has expressed, “Three centuries after Chinese Opera’s birth, it now competes not only with films and television but also with new forms of entertainment such as multimedia and metaverse. Yet, the quintessence of Chinese Opera art, its lyricism and beauty, continues to inspire and enlighten modern audiences. I believe that tradition and innovation are not oppositional and are equally important. As a Chinese Opera practitioner, I need to be open-minded and to keep exploring the theatre’s potential.”

Wei Hai Min is currently the leading actress of GuoGuang Opera Company and the Contemporary Legend Theatre, and the director of the Wei Hai-Min Chinese Opera Foundation. Her notable works include Mu Guiying Takes Command, The Drunken Concubine, The White Snake, Return of the Phoenix, Farewell, My Concubine, and The Golden Cangue.

Headshot By: Rung-Lu Lin | Promo Photo By: Nicholas Fan



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