2012 Honorary Fellow
Hu Zhifeng, who was born in Shanghai in 1938, attained the prestigious title of National First Class Performer in her motherland. Ms Hu is a mentor in the master’s degree programme of the Graduate School of the Chinese National Academy of Arts and the Honorary President of the Chinese Society for Theatre Performance, as well as being a member of the 7th to 10th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committees.
After graduating from Shanghai Nanyang Model High School in 1956, Ms Hu entered the Department of Engineering Physics at Tsinghua University, Beijing in the same year. A student of Peking opera and Kunqu opera since the age of ten, she received Peking opera training from Wei Lianfang, Yang Wannong, Bao Youdie, Wu Jilan, Xue Lanfen, Yang Xiaopei, Liu Junlin and Wang Fuqing; and Kunqu opera training from Fang Chuanyun and Zhu Chuanming. In 1959, she was apprenticed to Mei Lanfang, he renowned master of Peking opera.
In 1959, with the approval of Tsinghua University, Ms Hu devoted herself fully to Peking opera. In 1960 she was recruited as the Leading Actress of the Suzhou Peking Opera Troupe and in 1980 she was appointed its leader and director. She adapted, directed and performed a number of famous works from the repertoire including Li Huiniang, blending innovation with traditional practice. In 1981, the movie version of Li Huiniang adapted and performed by Ms Hu was named Best Movie Drama by the Ministry of Culture.
Between 1985 and 1987, Ms Hu furthered her studies in the theory and technique of Chinese opera performance at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, where, after graduation, she continued working as researcher, lecturer and opera director. Ms Hu’s publications include five books on the theory of Chinese opera performance, Sailing at the Arts Sea, Hu Zhifeng on the Arts, Creation of Opera Actor’s Role and Theory, Creation of Opera Arts and The Law of Artistic Creation of Opera Stage Art, as well as essays, commentaries and adaptations of a number of Chinese opera classics.
Ms Hu has been invited to give lectures at many higher education institutions in Hong Kong and the Mainland, including Tsinghua University, Peking University and Jiaotong University. Overseas, she has lectured at the National University of Singapore and the University of Minnesota, as well as in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University.
Twelve leading performers who were her students have been awarded the prestigious Plum Blossom Prize, the national award for excellent performers in Chinese theatre.
Ms Hu has been the visiting artist of the Chinese Traditional Theatre programme of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts since 2000, teaching body movements, foundation work, repertoire studies and performance practice. An acclaimed teacher, Ms Hu has both shared with local artists the accumulated knowledge of her many years of experience and directed productions for well-known Cantonese opera performers and graduates of the Academy.