Name: Ma Xiangsheng
Genre: Peking Opera
How old were you when you started performing?
We all learn Peking Opera as children. I started learning Peking Opera when I was 12 years old.
How did you come to study Peking opera?
I was in middle school in Ya’an, Sichuan province, when a group of strangers came to our classroom and walked around to check each student carefully. The strangers checked my bones – then asked me to kick, stretch my arms and bend my waist. They also tested my singing as well. They were selecting students for the Peking Opera Troupe of Panzhihua City, and I was the one selected in my city to go to Tianjin Opera School.
Why do you love being a Peking opera performer, and more specifically, the laosheng role?
Peking opera is not only a beautiful performance, but it has underlying relations with other Chinese arts, like ink painting and calligraphy. Many respected Peking opera performers are also good calligraphers. Through calligraphy, we can find the feeling in performance. As for my role, laosheng characters are usually talented, experienced and mature men, like Liang Zhuge [the militarist strategist from the Three Kingdoms period]and Yue Fei [a general during the Song dynasty]. I think the tune is good, and the movements are stylish.
What’s the hardest part about being a laosheng?
I have been performing the laosheng role for so many years, and it is still challenging. To be a laosheng requires a well-balanced combination of singing, speaking, movement and expression.
If you could play a different role, what would it be and why?
I was selected directly by a laosheng teacher, Cao Shijia, as soon as I got to Tianjin Opera School. At that time, your major was decided by teachers. They have great instinct. Actors generally train to play only a single type of role for their entire career. But if I could choose, I might pick up the wusheng role, because it’s a very young and cool role.