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Shaoxing Opera artist Mao Weitao

2009-06-23 09:03 BJT


Sarah Siddons astonished 18th and 19th Century audiences by appearing as Hamlet, a role she played for 30 years. She was just one of many actresses who’ve taken on men’s roles. East China’s Zhejiang province gave us Shaoxing Opera’s Mao Weitao. In her thirty-year career on the stage, she’s best known as an outstanding male impersonator with a cult following of women. Today, we probe into how Mao Weitao makes the most of a century-old operatic tradition.

This woman has created another world for herself on the stage. In this world, she is incarnated into dozens of men, from the talented poet, to the frustrated scholar and the intrepid general.

Mao Weitao is the master-or mistress-- of the Shaoxing opera character of the Xiaosheng, or young man.

Mao Weitao said, "In Shaoxing opera, male roles played by actresses are marked with a poetic and graceful temperament that you can hardly find in real life. Idealism plays a part here. My interpretation of a male character must be a perfect man in a woman's eyes. That also explains why Shaoxing opera fans are mostly women. They find a Mr. Right in their dreams."