From the age of ten, Qian
Yi studied classical Chinese opera (Kunqu) at
the Shanghai Opera School. As a member of the Shanghai Opera Company,
she became known for her leading roles in The
Legend of the White Snake, The
Water Margin and other standards of the classical
Chinese opera repertoire. The Chinese Ministry of Culture recognized her
as one of the country’s finest young Kunqu actors.
In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s
epic 19-hour production of The Peony Pavilion.
The production toured internationally, playing at major international
festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Her performance
has been widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, garnering such
superlatives as “radiant” (New York Times), “incomparable” (Wall Street
Journal) and “spellbinding” (New York Magazine).
Since coming to the U.S., she has starred in numerous re-workings of Chinese
opera for a western theater context, including Ghost Lovers (Spoleto USA), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center) and Snow in June (American Repertory Theater). In addition,
she has been exploring western theater, working with directors such as
Meredith Monk and Karin Coonrad. In 2008, she will have her western opera
premiere, singing a leading role in the San Francisco Opera’s new production
of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter's Daughter
In film, Qian Yi starred in Alexander Ku’s Triple 8 Palace, an independent short film which received
Official Selection at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Qian Yi also appeared
in Dark Matter,
an independent feature starring Meryl Streep and Liu Ye. In her latest
role, Qian Yi stars in The Years Flow Like Water, another independent short currently
Qian Yi has written two plays, A Robe for the Moon which was performed at the Kennedy
Center Page to Stage New Play Festival and Fox Spirit, which is currently in workshop development.
Qian Yi continues to perform Chinese opera. Most recently, she starred
in the Contemporary Legend Theatre’s The Butterfly Dream, which premiered at Taiwan’s
National Theater as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. She also
starred in The Eternal Palace,
which was performed in venues across the United States including the Smithsonian
Freer+Sackler Galleries. In addition to these performances, she has brought
her knowledge of Chinese traditional theater to American audiences in
an academic context. She taught Chinese Opera movement at Barnard College,
Columbia University and has given numerous lectures and demonstrations
at universities and museums around the country.