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Chinatown Opera Theater in North America$
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Nancy Yunhwa Rao

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040566

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040566.001.0001

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An Examination of the Aria Song “Shilin Jita”

An Examination of the Aria Song “Shilin Jita”

(p.104) Chapter 5 An Examination of the Aria Song “Shilin Jita”
Chinatown Opera Theater in North America

Nancy Yunhwa Rao

University of Illinois Press

Cantonese opera aria was a primary form of musical utterance in Chinatowns in the 1920s. They were heard not only at theaters but also as aria song on phonograph records at laundries, canneries, or stores, or through life performance at clubhouses of family associations. As an introduction to this sound world, this chapter examines a popular aria from that decade: Li Xuefang’s “Shilin Jita” from Madame White Snake. The lyrics are comprised of couplets of ten-syllable verses, and the aria is a fanxian erhuang type. Focusing on the transcription of a historical recording, the chapter delves into analyses of the relationship between text and music, the phrase structures, mode, ornamentation styles, rhythmic scheme, etc. Two versions of the same arias are also compared. A discussion of vocal sliding tones at the end of the chapter points to additional consideration of the singing style typical of Cantonese opera singing. While this chapter focuses on a single aria from a large body of repertoire, it nevertheless introduces important aspects of the musical characteristics and aesthetics of Cantonese opera in the 1920s.

Keywords:   lyrics, aria style, phrase, rhythm, Madame White Snake, ornamentation, vocal slide, mode, verse, couplet

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