Obituary

Celebrated nandan Mei Baojiu followed dad's footsteps

Mei Baojiu performing for a China Central Television special in 1994 and playing a nandan role at Paris’ Theatre Adyar in 2005 (above).
Mei Baojiu performing for a China Central Television special in 1994 and playing a nandan role at Paris’ Theatre Adyar in 2005 (above). PHOTO: XINHUA
Mei Baojiu performing for a China Central Television special in 1994 (above) and playing a nandan role at Paris’ Theatre Adyar in 2005.
Mei Baojiu performing for a China Central Television special in 1994 (above) and playing a nandan role at Paris’ Theatre Adyar in 2005.PHOTO: XINHUA

BEIJING • Mei Baojiu, the renowned Peking opera artist and son of legendary Peking opera great Mei Lanfang, died at the age of 82 yesterday in Beijing, Xinhua reported.

He fell into a coma following a bronchial spasm and died at a hospital, said a statement from the Peking Opera Theatre of Beijing.

He was the head of Mei Lanfang Peking opera troupe under the Peking Opera Theatre.

Born in 1934 in Shanghai, he was the ninth and youngest child of Mei Lanfang, one of the most respected Chinese artists of the 20th century and creator of the "Mei School" or style of Peking opera.

Mei Lanfang, who died aged in 1961 aged 66, was known for introducing Peking Opera to the West, travelling to America and Europe, and winning over fans such as Charlie Chaplin.

His son, a National First-Grade actor, continued in his spirit, passing on the Mei opera style techniques to students.

In 2013, at age 80, he also retraced his father's steps with performances in America, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Like his dad, he was known as a nandan performer, a male actor who plays female roles. He was known for performances of such classical plays as Farewell My Concubine, Lady General Mu Takes Command and The Drunken Beauty.

He began learning the traditional art at 10 years old, staged his first performance at age 13 and was on stage with his father when was 18.

He had said his greatest regret was being unable to promote the Mei school when nandan and traditional performances were curtailed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when he had to stop singing for 14 years.

Resuming acting later, he also promoted the Mei art and was said to have taught actor Leon Lai personally for his role as Mei Lanfang in the Chen Kaige biopic Forever Enthralled (2008).

Website NetEase cited The Beijing News as saying Mei Baojiu fell ill while lunching at a restaurant, two days after celebrating his birthday on March 29 and was sent to hospital.

In 2013, he was quoted as saying in an interview that air pollution had ruined his voice and those of other Peking opera performers.

In Hong Kong that year to perform, he was said to have taken medicine for an irritated respiratory tract.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Celebrated nandan Mei Baojiu followed dad's footsteps'. Print Edition | Subscribe