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Divine Diva


□ Cheng Tieliang

  Like her unexpected and fortuitousmarriage to a French diplomat, itwas by chance that Zheng Zirucame to love and perform PekingOpera. An artist in both traditional Chineseand modem Western song and dance genres,many of her friends could hardly believethat a person so dedicated to Peking Operacould turn her focus to a form of modemdance and drama so heavily infused withforeign culture.
  
  Zheng's extraordinary talent for singingwas first evidenced in 1972, when she was astudent at the No. 7 Railway Primary Schoolin the Fengtai District of Beijing. Perform-ing in the Peking Opera version of The RedLantern, in the role of Grandma Li. Shelater entered the Central May 7 Universityof Art and learned how to perform the roleof laodan, an elderly female Peking Operacharacter. After seven years of study, at hergraduation ceremony she played the role ofShe Saihua, the dowager of the Yang familyof generals, as depicted in the historic taleThe Romance of the Yang Family Generals.The audience was enthusiastic and the di-rectors were particularly impressed. A yearlater they selected her to portray Jiang Gui-zhi, the lead role in The Dual of the FlowerSpears. The opera ran for 200 shows acrossthe country and Zheng's fame grew.
  In September 1988, Zheng achieved adream when she took center stage for herown production in Beijing. She gained morefame upon winning the Best Performer ofthe Wenhua Prize, as granted by the gov-ernment for the opera Mu Lian Saves HisMother. Then 30 years of age, today she re-mains the youngest performer ever to winthe award.
  In 2006, at the invitation of the PekingOpera Theater of Tianjin, Zheng acceptedthe leading role of laodan in the modem Pe-king Opera Hua Ziliang, based on the novelRed Crags, a tale of the revolution. The op-era was honored on multiple occasions, in-cluding being named as one of the Ten BestOperas of the First National Elite Projectsof Stage Arts, as designated by the PublicityDepartment of the CPC Central Committee,as well as taking the Wenhua Prize, awardedby the Ministry of Culture.
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