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How a man from a village changed traditional art form

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-30 07:42

Ma Jiuyue, music director of Li's upcoming tour, who is a composer with the China National Orchestra and has worked as the music director of Li's show, Flower in Mirror, Moon in Water, in 2010, says: "Audiences are familiar with the female roles Li has played. But in this show, he will sing without heavy makeup and exquisite costumes.

"I believe this tour will let people see the man behind those women."

In 2010, Li was offered a contract with the China Opera and Dance Drama Theater as the only performer without professional training to be signed by the troupe.

Meanwhile, despite attention and popularity, Li has faced mixed reviews of his performances.

Some Peking Opera experts call Li's performances "amateurish" and condemn him for misguiding the younger audience. Even his parents want him to get a new job.

But despite the controversy about his work, Li has continued to push boundaries.

In 2015, three years after he withdrew from the limelight, he returned with Lady Zhaojun, about the legendary Wang Zhaojun, an ancient Chinese beauty who volunteered to marry the ruler of a Hun tribe in exchange for friendly relations with the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

To prepare for the drama, he traveled from Beijing to the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and this not only inspired him to produce the show but also enabled him to regain his confidence.

"The travels slowed down my career development. I had lots of time to think and figure out my next move," says Li, who also then got interested in calligraphy and traditional Chinese handcrafts such as paper-making and silk embroidery.

Li has been looking to expand his repertoire further.

Recently, the popular TV show, The King of Comedy, produced by the Beijing TV Station, had a contest featuring professional comedians and actors and singers without prior experience in comedy. Li took part and won.

"I felt free and excited when I performed as a comedian. The result was beyond my expectations and it gives me confidence to expand my range in the future," says Li.

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