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FULL EPISODE

The Children of the Beijing Opera

For the first time in its history, The Beijing Opera School, the largest of the 270 Chinese schools for the arts, agreed to open its doors to a film crew. This documentary explores the daily lives of the children who train there.

AIRED: March 11, 2021 | 0:52:07
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TRANSCRIPT

[ Tinkling music playing ]

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[ Somber music playing ]

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[ Indistinct singing ]

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[ Train rumbling past ]

[ Footsteps ]

[ Dramatic music playing ]

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[ Alarm ringing ]

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[ Ringing continues, woman speaking indistinctly ]

[ Ringing stops ]

[ Speaking native language ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Door squeaks open ]

[ Conversations continue ]

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[ Car horn honks ]

[ Woman vocalizing ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Thudding on mat ]

[ Speaking native language ]

[ Tapping ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Man clapping rhythmically ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

Narrator: Founded in 1952 by four mythical actors,

the School of the Beijing Opera trains some 200 pupils

from all over China.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

At this fee-paying school,

the teaching course lasts about eight years.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

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Created in the 19th century, the Beijing Opera is a synthesis

of diverse styles of Chinese theater.

It blends theater, music, song, and acrobatic dance

in performances inspired by historical and folkloric tales.

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[ Cloth whipping ]

[ Woman speaking indistinctly ]

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[ Speaking native language ]

[ Woman speaking native language ]

[ All singing in native language ]

[ Speaking native language ]

Ah.

[ Faint drumming ]

[ Man speaks indistinctly ]

[ Clacking ]

[ Clacking continues ]

[ Man speaks indistinctly ]

[ Man speaking indistinctly ]

[ Woman speaking indistinctly ]

[ Rhythmic clapping ]

[ Rhythmic clapping ]

[ Man speaking indistinctly ]

[ Clacking ]

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[ Shouts indistinctly ]

[ Clacking ]

[ Speaking indistinctly ]

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[ Music playing, gong rings ]

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[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Cymbals crashing in background ]

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[ Feet thumping ]

[ Indistinct talking ]

[ Rhythmic clapping ]

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[ Students all respond ]

[ Students continue reading aloud ]

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Narrator: Every Sunday in the school's theater,

the children play to an audience in professional conditions.

The scenery has neither scenery nor director.

Here, the slightest of movements is encoded

and passed on from master to disciple.

The play scripts are of secondary importance.

People do not come to the Beijing Opera to hear stories,

but to appreciate an actor's performance and personality.

Selected according to physical and artistic criteria,

the pupils are given, as soon as they start the school,

a certain type of role that they will study constantly

throughout their years of training.

These include the virtuous woman,

the flower-adorned heroine,

the fierce female warrior,

or the venerable ancestor for women,

and the soldier, the scholar, the clown,

or the painted face for men.

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[ Woman speaking native language ]

[ Sticks clacking ]

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[ Music playing in background ]

[ Woman speaking native language ]

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[ Students respond ]

[ Students respond ]

♪ Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

[ Music playing ]

[ Sticks clacking ]

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[ Shouting indistinctly ]

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Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

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[ Cheers and applause ]

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

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[ Laughter ]

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[ Applause ]

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[ Singing in native language ]

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[ Tapping ]

[ Flutes playing ]

[ Singing indistinctly ]

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[ Singing in native language ]

[ Singing continues ]

[ Singing in native language ]

[ Tapping ]

[ Singing in native language ]

[ Speaking native language ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]

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Narrator: In recent years, the school's reputation

has crossed the Chinese border.

During their tours in Japan, Spain, and France,

each child artist is an ambassador

for the Beijing Opera.

These trips abroad afford them the opportunity to open up

to other traditions and cultures.

[ Muffled conversations ]

[ Boy singing in native language ]

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[ Singing continues ]

[ Man singing in native language ]

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[ Man speaking indistinctly ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Singing in native language ]

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[ Gong rings ]

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[ Children singing ]

[ Man speaking indistinctly ]

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[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Whistle tone playing ]

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[ Shouting in native language ]

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[ Frantic drum-based music playing ]

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[ Sticks clacking ]

[ Cymbals crashing ]

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[ Indistinct conversations ]

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[ Indistinct talking ]

[ Singing in native language ]

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[ Indistinct conversations continue ]

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[ Somber music playing ]

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[ Music swells ]

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[ Man chanting in native language ]

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