Beijing’s National Opera dates back to 1790, when opera troupes from Anhui province performed at the Qing Court. Today opera is still immensely popular among the Chinese and for foreign visitors to this beautiful country. The performance is delightfully humorous and shows traditional Beijing culture. The performers use ambitious intricacy and style.
In 1928 local opera troupes merged together, influenced by Beijing dialect and drew on the artistic styles of other local operas, combining to create a unique form of Chinese opera, “Beijing Opera”. This started during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng in the 1850s. The Beijing Opera institute now enjoys high popularity both in China and abroad.
Beijing Opera is a mix of artistic expressions of the Chinese nation, a complex blend of music, singing, recitations, dancing, fine art, martial arts and acrobatics. Symbolism can be hugely exaggerated, with a stage bare of scenery, and only the artists’ bodily movements to tell the story. Holding a horse whip means riding a horse, and an oar means sailing a boat. Time is shown in the knocking of a night bell, and a change in backdrop is done freely. The masks show characteristics of the person, such as temper, personality and age. The colours of the masks have meanings, such as red meaning sincere, and purple meaning honest. This is an outstanding feature of Beijing Opera.
The story is told in 4 repertoires and accompanied by a musical performance that is very traditional. Farewell My Concubine tells a romantic tragedy about the King of Han, who knew he was going to lose the war. His concubine danced for him but did not want to become a burden in the war, so committed suicide. The Crossroads is about Jiao Zan, who was exiled to an island his protector followed him. The owner of his guesthouse thinks the protector is there to kill Jiao, and they fight until Jiao comes to clear up the misunderstanding. A Bird in A Cage is about a mother and son, separated during a war. The son later married a princess, and his understanding wife helped him to find his mother. Drunken Beauty occurs in the Tang dynasty. Emperor Tang rejects concubine Yang, and in her disappointment she becomes very drunk.
Liyuan Theatre is the most prestigious performance venue of Beijing opera, well known for it’s music and acting. The traditional performance stage, the unique facial make-up, and the traditional Baixian table seating 8 people. The theatre has 1000 seats and before the performance the make-up rooms of the artists may be viewed. The show is translated into English and Japanese, and has English subtitles.
Each year 300 thousand visitors enjoy the brilliance of the show, and foreign leaders and officials have been known to show their presence here. Visitors enjoy the waiters and waitresses in traditional Tang suits pouring tea through long-mouthed tea pots. Before or after the performance, you may enjoy Chinese delicacies at the Chinese Restaurant.
The show begins at 7.30pm and ends at 9pm every day. Discount tickets are available from their official website linked to on this article.