Peking Opera

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Peking Opera

An evening at the opera sounds a sophisticated way to learn about the culture of a place as well as enjoy the spectacle of music and dance. Unfortunately I can’t recommend Peking Opera in this way.

The opera is held at a hotel not far from the centre of Beijing. It was raining for the first real time since we’ve been here but that doesn’t matter as the car takes us right under the shelter at the front of the hotel.

The opera was well organised. It had a projected screen at the back to introduce the show and explain which pieces of music are coming next. At both side there are screens that explain the story of the opera and also translate the words in realtime.

The peking opera in Beijing ChinaThe stories are taken from ancient history, following various emperors and dynasties although whether they are strictly true or simply myths within the historical setting I don’t know.

The first story follows a king who faced with defeat on the battlefield is supported and encouraged by a lady who, when the battle is finally lost kills herself with the kings sword so as not to slow him down.

The second was a martial arts display with two men apparently in an inn fighting in the dark after one has been exiled.

The third story was also about a lady and a Han ruler who she falls in love with. And the final one about a drunken concubine!

The ‘music’ however wasn’t really to our taste. While initially the sound portrayed a sense of old China it quickly begins to get on your nerves. The singing style is thin and reedy and it is not a particularly pleasant experience!

However, the martial arts display was good. There was little or no music (thankfully!) but the story was mimed and was deliberately funny with the two men often missing each other ‘in the dark’

The one other highlight was the third story when the children were extremely amused by the swearing (a literal translation error which made us all laugh!)