The Opera

Oh yeah, that’s right, back again with my first post in about a month or so.  In the world of blogging, I’m not very good at keeping fresh material on the board.  On the other hand, work always takes precedent.  Besides, its good to get away from the computer while you can.  The internet is mostly full of crap, so you should stop reading now and go find a book.

A few weeks ago Megan and I went to watch the Bronx Opera do a special performance at our place of employment.  Having spent to better portion of this last year living a significant distance from anything in the way of a music or performance center, it was a great chance to get out and add to a very limited set of social events.  The performance overall was fantastic, and given that we were two of maybe twenty others, it was basically a private showing.  While sitting and listening to a strange mix of musicals and dark stuff from a famed Norwegian Romantic, I couldn’t help but wonder at the differences between this and the Beijing Opera (or really any Chinese opera).

The Beijing Opera, which exists as one of the most traditional and well established forms of Chinese theatre, has been in existence for the past two centuries.  Putting together music and performance, it differs from western opera in that the performance is exaggerated and not necessarily bound by realistic presentation of life.  Instead, it relies heavily on the movement of performers.  Little is done in the way of stage arrangement.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a decade of chaos in which the government promoted the expulsion of all capitalist and bourgeois elements from Chinese society, this form of performance was seen as a classic example of the things which Mao stood against.  It was temporarily replaced by the Model Operas, performances meant to inspire and demonstrate model citizenship and behavior.  This has died out post revolution, and the original form is reinstated and quite alive.

There you have it, a complex and heavily nuanced art form condensed into the space of a few lines.  Should I make it back to China, I would love to get a chance to see such an opera and give a bit more enlightening report on my findings. I still haven’t managed to get the post-flood pictures off of my camera, but perhaps next time.

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