Peking Opera, Beijing
I was almost tempted to enter this tip under the category "tourist traps", but still, it wasn't all bad.
I love opera, and I was ready to love Peking opera. I was warned not to go to some modern theater, so I went to the historic and gorgeous Huguang Guild Hall.
At Y280, it was expensive (for Beijing, not for the MET!). The show that night was "Monkey King Makes Trouble In The Dragon Palace". There were no girl roles at all. I guess Monkey King is the Chinese Billy Budd!
The audience was very sparse, and we were given tea and little snacks.
The show was great. Mostly acrobatics and percussion, with hardly any singing at all.
As I was starting to get into it, it was over! And opera has the reputation of being too long! Quick curtain calls were immediately followed by the staff clearing the cups and nutshells in a hurry.
When I look at the website of Huguang Guild, Monkey King is usually given with another piece. But that night, I was a bit shortchanged.
Do not miss an entertaining night at the world famous Beijing Opera. Usually there is a story of a Chinese legend or historical episode. The Monkey King is one of my favorites. Colorful makeup with different bright costume and exaggerated eye movement and body gestures. Dancing and acrobatic jumps with fans or swords.
There is also individual sopra, tenor or base singing by individual performers which get hearty response from the audience.
The Liyuan Theater is situated inside Jianguo Hotel, Qianmen, at No. 175 in Yongan Lu.
The night performances held here at 19:30 pm of genuine Beijing Opera and other folk performances is the result of the co-operation between the Beijing Qianmen Hotel and the Beijing Opera Theater.
The Liyuan Theater is also one of those places in Beijing I can not miss every time I come to the capital because I love the traditions of old Beijing and this theater reflects just that,
- Its traditional performance stage,
- The old-fashioned square tables for eight people (ba1 xian1 zhuo1 or eight fairy tables),
- Waiters in Tang suits (Traditional Chinese garments) pouring tea through long-mouth tea pot,
- The enjoyment of watching the performances while sipping tea and cracking melon seeds and tasting snacks, etc.
If you are worried about the language barrier, this shouldn’t be a concern because the theater provides English subtitles boards.
And before and after the show you have several interesting options:
- Visit the performers' make-up room and watch the performers putting on their exquisite make-up
- You can also put on the stage costume and wear facial make-up to take a photo
- You can enjoy your Beijing roast duck at the restaurant of the hotel
- Take a picture with the performers
- There is a souvenir shop next to the theater where you can buy various souvenirs related to Beijing Opera, stage costumes, facial make-ups, musical instruments, calligraphy and painting, etc.
- In the exhibition hall you can read the brief history of the Chinese Beijing Opera and see photos of famous artists of Beijing opera.
Coming to the Liyuan Theater it is definitely a nice choice!
I'm not one to visit the Opera but I really enjoyed myself here. The actors actually had me laughing and I don't speak Chinese!! You will have to check the local schedule to find out the venues. It was worth it just for the group of musicians and the cool music that they accompanied the show with. It was very inexpensive for the show that I went to. It was US$.96 cents!! Again like some of my other tips this was 1987 so I'm very sure that it will be more expensive now....A little side note that I noted in my journal was that I had bought the ticket from a scalper and he probably jacked up the price to me!! Who knows what the original price was. The show lasted about 2 hours.
Dress Code: I didn't notice any special dress code. Most people were just dressed up warm as it was pretty dang cold outside!!
It was a strange experience with odd mimics, weird jumps and shouts interrupted by those bizarre chinese sounds - they call traditional theatre music!
This theatre tradition is over 200 years old and plays are based on folk tales, famous novels or fairy tales. They are in an awkward way a real pleasure to watch and in some places it is possible to have online english translation of the subtitles.
The fantastic silk costumes are works of art in themselves.
One of the best places for Peking Opera experience is Qianmen hotel which I visited.
Another idea is to go see chinese acrobatics - I assisted at the one at Poly Plaza.
Peking opera is traditional opera of China, the best place to watch is Chang'an Palace.
In the opera, characters has various colours painted on their face, each colour reflect the character's heart.
For example, when red is the main color of the face, it suggests loyalty, blue suggests cruelty, yellow suggests cunning, and white suggests treachery.
I knew that this kind of opera is very hermetic for an European. I was afraid that the jet-lag could interfere. It didn't, and they were clever enough to make the show as detailed as possible to be understood, and as brief as needed to do not become boring.
I had a big guy in front of me all the time, so the only decent picture I could make was our table, but Burak was there, and, with his permission, my tip will not be plain text (with tea - another difference to our conventional opera - and nice company!).
A funny and original idea: The actors prepare the opera in a public corridor, allowing the public to watch their work of characterization.
Thus, the show starts immediately as you enter the building, even before sitting.
Did you see the critically acclaimed Chinese movie 'Farewell to My Concubine' (which garnered loads of awards) and wonder about the 'squeaky' voice produced by that beautiful female character who was actually a man? :-) Wonder no more! Why don't you try catching a CHINESE OPERA? Very unique. And it's VERY unlike the western-style operas. If you have very sensitive ears, you may also wish to bring along a ear plug (just in case)... because at some points during the opera when their voices get really, really, really shrill (I'm sure you know what I mean), it'd come in handy. :-)
Cool THICK make-up and shrill singing to go hand-in-hand with their exaggerated hand movements.
Dress Code: Casually smart.
You haven't experienced the Chinese culture if you haven't been to a Chinese Opera. Be sure to visit an opera with English translations! When I went to see the opera, the translation machine broke down after 5 minutes. I'll tell you that it wasn't quite as entertaining afterwards... The cookies and jasmine tea that usually is served is yummy though.
If you're a big Pavarotti fan, don't think you can compare this opera with the western opera. Chinese opera takes you to another dimension - it is a combination of acrobatics and singing. The singing is very different (and sometimes even annoying) from the way I'm used to, so be prepared for a cultural shock!
It's not a spot but a sort of entertainment: the BEIJING OPERA
First of all I have to point out that nothing you may associate with the word opera applies for what you can see in China.
The Beijing Opera is an interesting blend of dancing, musical dialogue and martial arts - made complete by colourful costumes and make-up. The different costumes and make-up designs all have their respective meaning: they all represent a given character (that is they tell whether someone is evil or nice).
There is REALLY nothing similar to it in Western cultire. I enjoyed it, but most people I talked to said that they could do well without seeing such a performance again. You decide, but one thing is certain: it is a must-see.
Dress Code: None...maybe shorts are not the best idea but they will let you in regardless of what you wear as long as you wear something...:-)
The famous Peking Opera is well worth while to see. I don't particularly like the way they "sing" it resembles more like cats meowing, but I love the skilled acrobat trics and the humor that cross both the cultural and language barriers easily. The musical instruments are nice, too. Tea is served and the audience sits at tables. A very entertaining experience. I recommend warmly!
Here at the Liyuan Theatre, the seats at the very front rows are a restaurant-style table where sweets and tea are served.
Go to the Beijing Opera, its fascinating and a part of China's long cultural history. I am sorry i cannot remember the exact theatre we went to.
I like not only music but also opera.
When I listen to the chinese music, I feel in the real relax.
Espesially, we really enjoyed the pekin opera.