If you're not going anywhere for Spring Festival, it's difficult to remedy the feeling that you're going to miss out as all your friends pack their suitcases with sunblock, bikinis and floppy hats. But there's plenty to do during the holiday, and after an unexpected cultural infusion last week, I now know how I'll spend at least some of my time over the holiday: a night out at the Chinese theater.
Get Out and Gain a New Perspective
One performance you shouldn't miss is "My Dream" by the 2008 Beijing Olympics; regardless, nothing beats seeing this show for yourself and feeling the energy in the room. It's hard to describe how moving this event really is, but I predict it will inspire you to be a better person and change your perspective forever. The 110 member troupe is composed of young people who are blind, deaf or have other physical limitations and have come together over a love for art. The troupe has performed all over China and in over 40 countries worldwide. Their focus is on improving themselves and the lives of others, and overcoming disabilities through music and dance. If the opportunity arises, go—I'm willing to bet it will change you for the better.
If you're in Shanghai, there's a group called the Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre Troupe which performs Beijing Opera and acrobatics at various venues in Shanghai, throughout China and around the world. Last week, I found myself in the second row at the "2012 Shanghai New Year Gala Performance in Honor of High-level Talents and Foreign Experts" where I saw “Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger” accompanied by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and some of the most amazing acts I had ever seen. The goal of this show was to thank the upper echelon of Shanghai (and their dates, lucky me!) for their hard work and service to China.
If China knows how to do one thing right it's hospitality—from the little old neighborhood lady happy to invite you in for dinner to these massive events, China knows how to make you feel special when they want to. This particular performance refueled me when I was beginning to wonder how many more near-death experiences and elbows to the ribs I could take on a random Tuesday commute to work. The show was a reminder to me that there is still so much to witness, so many friends to make and so much to learn, both while traveling and at home in your own neighborhood.
The clanging cymbals, the brightly colored costumes, the intense facial expressions and long, dramatic antenna-like feathers all make Beijing Opera unforgettable. The costumes alone are worth the experience.
And I have to come clean about something: I didn’t understand the plot, not even a little bit, but I wasn't even thinking about that as the large bearded performers floated seamlessly across the stage and wowed me with their skill.
Tickets range from only RMB 50 to 380. If you consider the fact that you’d be paying over RMB 3,000 to step foot outside of the PRC for Chinese New Year and then for accommodations and everything else once you arrive at your destination, one cultured night on the town in Shanghai is easily validated.
The Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre Troupe is housed at the Yi Fu Theater, located at 701 Fuzhou Lu (Fúzhōu Lù, 福州路). The theater was built in 1925 and is known for its famous Opera performances.
Listings during the 2012 Spring Festival include: Wednesday, January 25, 1:30pm, RMB 50-280 Peking Opera "Fa Men Si" Thursday, January 26, 7:15pm and Friday, January 27th, 7:15pm, RMB 50-280 Peking Opera "Gathering of Heroes, Borrowing East Wind, Hua Rong Road Junction" Friday, January 27, 7:15pm, RMB 50-280 Peking Opera "The Marriage of Dragon and Phoenix"
Other Artsy Options Around China
Naturally, Beijing offers plenty of opportunities to see Beijing Opera. Every evening, The Huguang Guild Hall hosts Beijing Opera performances. Check for discounted tickets Peking Opera Art Museum which is attached to the National Peking Opera Theater.
The Sichuan Opera is native to Chengdu. However, if you're stuck up north or elsewhere, you can catch some at your local branch of Ba Guo Bu Yi (Ba Guó Bù Yī, 巴国布衣), or Sichuan Folk as it's known in English. During this performance, you'll witness face changing, where performers are trained to quickly change the many masks on their face to communicate emotion, mood and plot. The fastest performer is recorded changing 14 masks in 25 seconds. If you are looking for something after the crowds dwindle, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, featuring song, dance and art, begins on January 28 and runs to March 8, 2012. Wherever you chose to go and whatever you chose to do, enjoy the Year of the Dragon!
Photo courtesy of: China Disable People's Performing Arts Troupe website