We enjoyed an evening of "Opera" at Beijing's oldest tea house. The performances included both Farewell My Concubine and The Monkey King. The first is a classical dramatic performance with some tricky sword play, the second a Kung Fu performance which was more entertaining and fun. The show was only an hour and a half long and well worth the investment of an evening. I highly recommend this.
Our visit was arranged by our hotel concierge but the website below is good for buying tickets independently online (less expensively).
Peking Opera is a very highly stylized for of musical drama that includes acrobatics and some times martial arts.
Every move is choreographed. Character types have their own special costumes and makeup, and men often play the female rolls.
Its very entertaining, and a lot more that falsetto singing.
Beijing opera or Peking opera (pinyin: Jingju) is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south. The art form is also enjoyed in Taiwan, where it is known as Guoju (pinyin: Guoju). It has also spread to other countries such as the United States and Japan.
Beijing opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the plot of the production. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music. The music of Beijing opera can be divided into the Xipi and Erhuang styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies, and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Beijing opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life.
In recent years, Beijing opera has attempted numerous reforms in response to sagging audience numbers. These reforms, which include improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements, and performing new and original plays, have met with mixed success. Some Western works have been adopted as new plays, but a lack of funding and an adverse political climate have left Beijing opera's fate uncertain as the form enters the 21st century.
So you want to see Peking Opera. There are two (at least) types, traditional and modern. The Huguang is supposedly traditional, but it's... ay yay yay.
I don't mind the tea and snacks. Those are nice. But we asked to be seated on the side and were seated in the back by the unwilling staff. We asked to go upstairs for a photograph- which tacitly advertises their place- but they didn't allow that. They weren't friendly or accomodating, really, but I stood in the back and got photos that I'll soon upload here. But they left such a bad impression. Then the show started and was monotonous, to say the least- that's not because I don't appreciate Chinese traditional opera. Near the end they got into more acrobatics, but it ended too soon. For the price, I can't highly recommend the Huguang Guild Hall. For the service, I can't recommend it either. But if you're going to compare, and if you like traditional architecture, it's pretty interesting.
Very interesting and unique, unlike anything else that I have seen. The music was made using traditional instruments. The melodies and tempo of the music is definitely different from Western standards for music. It was entertaining to me, although for many of the audience members, I think it was boring.
Before I left for China, I read reviews of the Peking Opera, Kungfu show, etc., and several readers recommended buying the reasonably-priced VIP seats. Well, they are no longer reasonably priced. When we were there in August 2007, the VIP seats for the Peking Opera and Kung Fu show sold for $89. Frankly they are not worth it. Each show is about 1 hour and 15 minutes long. Much of the Kung Fu show is pre-recorded in English and lip-synched (not that the singing is important to the show, but what exactly are we paying $89 for?) The shows are pleasant, and the Peking Opera show gives you an idea of what real Peking Opera is like, but opt for the mid-level seats. They may be off-center, but these shows aren't that wonderful that you need a perfect view.
We were able to get in one night to the "tourist" version of the Beijing Opera. Before the opera however we were provided a Peking Duck dinner with all the trimmings. I was surprised that the duck was cut up and rolled up in something similar to soft tortilla shells. The opera was wonderful, and very colorful. There were many different scenes. This lasted about two hours. Prior to the Opera, some of the performers would pose with you for a photo opportunity, and you had to pay a couple US dollars to do this.
It is not Italy but you shuld go to the Opera. The problem is that one has to be accustomed to watching simultanious perfomance on three levels. I cannot provide you with a feedback on this "issue" because at the time of my visit there was no performance.
This opera theatre has a long history - 60 years...It has just been renovated, and will resume operation in 2005 September. There is a huge sculpture of a Peking Opera Mask in front of the building.
The theatre usually hosts traditional opera performances, eg. "Dou E Yuan", "Yu Tang Chun" etc.
Peking Opera is one of the most representative folk art of China. It must be almost impossible for foreigners to understand scrips in Peking Opera and original stories are all so long.
Laoshi Teahouse gives us an opportunity to enjoy Peking Opera comfortably. You can enjoy highlights of Peking Opera and other traditional performances for a short time with Chinese tea and snacks.
Luckily, therer are subtitles for English, Japanese and Chinese speakers. If you need to go to a rest room, wait for a comic dialogue. It doesn't have any subtitles for foreigners, so you must be boring during the performance.
Especially, mask changing performance is worth seeing! It's really great!!!
This Opera is very nice. You can watch the actors prepare beforehand.
Get a table seat for snacks and tea during the show.
Translation is provided on two screens on either side of the stage.
Skip the shopping! overpriced
Again, I'm not much of the historian or "cultured" by any means, but this performance was pretty cool.
While in Beijing for two weeks, most of my days were spent going on the various tours, but the tours can be so tiring that saving a day to lounge around during the daytime in some of the various parks around the city, have lunch at one of the billions of restaurants in the city, or just take a stroll is really worth it, saving the evening for something like the Beijing or Peking Opera.
My pal at the tour desk in the Xindadu Hotel, arranged everything for me and even argued with me when I refused to take a taxi to the Liyuan Theatre and settled instead on setting out early and taking the subway to the Hepingmen stop and walking the rest of the way to the Jianguo Hotel, which houses the theatre.
My tour lady called ahead to the theatre and spoke in rapid Mandarin to someone she knew at the theatre, scratching something down on a business card. She then told me to present this card at the theatre window for some "special" treatment.
I arrived plenty early and presented the card and sure enough, a man appeared and escorted me into a long enclosed hall, which took me a minute to figure out. Suddenly, the actors began arriving and attendants began the long process of applying their makeup. Finally it dawned on me that I had an excellent photo opportunity, which I quickly began to take advantage of, clicking away tons of photos and feeling funny because I was the only one there.
Eventually others began arriving and again my "man" appeared and escorted me to a table within spitting distance of the main stage. Excellent treatment!
I'd highly recommend this show, although it's in Mandarin with screens above the stage that digitalize broken English about what's going on, it is still awesome! You even get a photo op after the show, with some of the actors!
We visited the Opera in a small theater. The play was subtitled above the stage, but as we were sitting font row not easy to read without pain in the neck.
For us it was a strange experience, sometimes even funny when the sounds coming from stage sounded like screaming cats. The make-up of the artists was another story, it looked great. But it was absolutely not a show we would like to see often. The one hour show was just enough.
To get an impression of the sound see a short movie we put on this website: http://www.freewebs.com/tompt/
For drama, acrobatics and wild and wonderful costumes, Peking Opera cannot be beaten! We paid for the expensive seats, and were treated to a table at the front, at which we were served all manner of lovely little cakes and an endless stream of tea!
To the uninitiated it is not always very clear what is going on on stage, but like most high art and traditional opera, it was full of larger than life characters, unblelivably loud stage whispers and dramatic gestures. See website for background information.
The tickets were not cheap I remember, but as I was saving on hotel bills I treated myself: it was worth every Yuan spent!
For western ears, the Peking Opera might need getting used to. The story is sometimes difficult to follow.
My opinion: a must see - but choose a short performance (one/two hour/s will do)! Some Hotels offer aggregated performances - enough to get an ideo of Peking Opera.
Peking opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. It's a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings. In Peking opera there are four main types of roles: sheng (male) dan (young female), jing( painted face,male), and chou (clown, male or female). The repertoire of Peking opera is mainly engaged in fairy tales of preceding dynasties, important historical events, emperors, ministers and generals, geniuses, and great beauties from the ancient times.
The music is of the "plate and cavity style".Its melody with harmonious rhythms is graceful and pleasing to the ears (say the Chinese). The performance is accompanied by a tune played on wind instruments, percussion instruments and stringed instruments.
As the traditional Chinese pattern are adopted, the costumes are of a high aesthetic value. The facial make-ups are rich and various, depicting different characters and remarkable images. Moreover there are numerous fixed editions of facial make-up.