(Sings): [Tang Duo Song] Moon mirror undimmed by dust, (Speaks): My lady, is your hair done up yet? Coming… (Sings): fresh make-up reflected in the dresser mirror, wind from the Qiantang river sweeps through this rustic studio. (Speaks): Husband… My lady… (Sings): Last night, the sky beyond the clouds was perfumed by cassia blooming in the moonlight. Hello, welcome to <i>The Beauty of Kunqu Opera</i> again. Today I'd like to introduce you to the music of Kunqu. Kunqu, this genre of classical Chinese opera has been performed since the mid sixteenth century. After nearly five hundred years of ups and downs, and near extinction during World War II, and the political turmoil thereafter, Kunqu recently has undergone a strong renaissance. People inside and outside of the Chinese language world have discovered, or I’ll say, rediscovered the literary value of the texts, and the aesthetic value of its music and dance. Now as you've seen from the previous video clip, Kunqu theatre is a combination of music, gorgeous costumes, artistic but stylized facial makeup, singing, and intricate choreography. Now, underlying all of these aspects is the music, especially the singing parts. Yet the musical aspect of Kunqu, namely, this structural underpinning of the entire production, is also the least understood and underappreciated. Well, I hope I’ll change that a little bit today. I'll begin with some surface features that immediately strike your ears, namely, the difference between the Kunqu vocal technique, and what we're used to today in modern and Western music. First, you might have noticed that the young man is singing at a high, semi falsetto register, equal to the pitch level of the female singer. Now, just let me remind you that in the 17th and 18th centuries, in European Baroque operas, counter tenors, male sopranos, were (also) very popular. Second, (in) Kunqu music, the singing part, is highly melismatic. Namely, one word or one syllable… in Chinese a word is equal to a syllable, might be carried over half a dozen notes or more and over several beats. Kind of like the old Gregorian chants. But unlike the Gregorian chants, which are sung very smoothly, drawing out the vowels; Kunqu singing emphasizes the initial consonant of each word. The beginning of each word, that is, the initial consonant is sung with a slight push from the diaphragm, clearly marking the beginning of each word… no matter how many musical notes there are before the next word. This feature is especially noticeable in the flute accompaniment, where the flutist will execute a subtle, a very fast trill or turn just before the main note. In other words, the accompaniment precedes the word by a fraction of a second. This is the performance practice. It's not sloppy ensemble.