Beijing Opera and Acrobats, Beijing
Acrobatics have a long tradition in china, and going to see a show can be recommended. I went to a show with a guided tour, witch might not have been the best thing to do if I wanted to see top quality acrobatics, but it was OK. After all: It's a show that you can see several places.
An absolute must for a first time visitor to Beijing is the Beijing opera (sometimes called Peking opera). The plays are a mixture of song and acrobatics.
Some performers (definitely not all) have painted faces. The color of those faces signal the type of character. Here are some examples.
A red face symbolizes bravery, uprightness and loyalty.
Purple symbolizes a noble character
Black symbolizes a rough and bold or an selfless person
White symbolizes a villain: everything that is bad in a human: Treachery, craftiness, greed.
If you go to an opera, make sure there is an English translation somewhere if you don't speak any Chinese. A ticket should not set you back much. For a little extra you get to sit at a table being served tea, but be aware of that some of the performers have quite powerful voices and sing in very high pitch.
Beijing Opera is out of tune, wacky, fun, fast and entertaining. We watched it in the Liyuan Theater in the Qianmen Hotel. In the front part of the theater which was like the VIP area, the setting is a sit down-tea house style with chairs, tables, snacks and tea, while at the back part where we sat, it was pretty much movie-theater style seats. There is also a screen at the side of the stage that has English subtitles so you understand the plot. The opera has colorful costumes and makeup, donned with cartwheels, acrobatic kung fu style moves, it is both comedy and drama. Show starts at 7:30PM, if you come early you can watch the actors put on their make up. You'll either love it or hate it. Me, I simply loved it since its one show where I didnt fall asleep...(slept through Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, etc)
Beijing Opera is a famous Opera in China. Lots of local people like it who are not very young. In old Hutong, you can hear the voice. We call the Beijing Opera fans Piao You. Every day or week, they will get together and sing the Beijing Opera, maybe it's not very good, but all the members are very earnest.
In the way to the Temple of Heaven, tourists can usually see groups of chinese playing and singing their traditional tones... you understand that music is much more than just being happy here, but it is a state of mind...
Here you feel and you hear the real China...
People love to sing and play their old traditional instruments. They gather in the parks to make music together, sing Beijing Opera, play the Erhu or do their Tai Ji exercises.
Best places to see this are:
I have to Thank my friend Robert for this wonderful photo., which was taken just a few weeks ago.
It's the most celebrated of the country's about 350 regional styles - a unique combination of song, dance, acrobatics and mime with some similarities to Western pantomime. Beijing opera is highly stylized and to the outsider can often seem obscure to the point of absurdity and ulitmately tedious since performances can last up to four hours, punctuated by a succession of crashing gongs and piercing, almost discordant songs. But it's worth seening once and if you can acquaint youself with the plot beforehand, there is a definite fascination.
For the most authentic performances try the Zhengyici Theater, the only surviving wooden Beijing Opera left. Nightly performances begin at 7:30, last two hours and cost 150 Yuan. Dinner (Duck) costs and additional 110 Yuan. (when I was in that theater, maybe now the prices are a little bit higher)
Like any other traditional opera, Peking Opera tells stories through movement, singing and elaborate dancing. Thus it is a graceful and consummate art which combines the best elements of literature, music and dance. First conceived and developed in Beijing (Peking), Peking Opera has only been performed for 200 years or so. But, by maintaining the heritage of traditional opera and absorbing so much from other local arts, it came to dominate the theaters of the imperial capital and enjoyed rapid growth. As it developed, Peking Opera has experienced periods of full bloom, diminishing popularity and near extinction. But in the end, it has still been passed down from generation to generation and maintained a loyal following because of its immense vitality.
Along with cuisine and landscaping, the art of acrobatics place the Chinese culture in a niche of its own. I watched this group go through its complex balancing routines for two hours without a single mishap. It's amazing that not one of these 54 spinning plates would fall. The odds are just against it!