Saturday, 31 July 2010

World's oldest opera singer dies

Not Hugues Cuénod, of whom there is a lot on this site, but Luo Pinchao (羅品超) (Law Bun Chiu), billed as the oldest opera singer in the world at his death, at 1.30 am on 15th July 2010. He was born 19 June 1912, by western reckoning aged 98, by Chinese reckoning 99. Apparently he was still singing until shortly before he died, although he officially retired aged 88. He was teaching until recently. At the age of 93, he performed one last time in an opera in Guangdong, commemorating his life work.

He started training aged 11. The traditional style was rigorous, but the teachers were harsh because the craft of Cantonese opera requires great discipline and physical fitness. Life in touring opera troupes was tough, some singers used opium, but Law was young and didn't need it. 

In 2008, Hong Kong TV did a feature on him, and he demonstrated his moves. It's quite impressive as Cantonese opera is quite athletic and most people aged 96 can't wave their knees in the air. One is his trademarks was holding a pose, balanced on one leg while singing an aria. "It's kept me healthy", he said, about the physical demands of Chinese opera where movement is as expressive as singing.

Law was tall, masculine and good looking, so he specialized in macho roles like virtuous generals and romantic heroes.  Most of his career was live opera, but he made about 50 movies, mostly filmed opera. Film was "the" art form of Hong Kong, all singers did movies. Above is a clip from 1959, one of Law's great roles. Below one part of the long HKTV feature.

No comments: