Chinese Opera, or That Time I Overdressed for a Show Where People Were Legit Eating Oranges

Welcome to the Opera

Everyone who went on this trip with me found we spent more money than we intended. This happens, I think, because the money is worth so little compared to your own country (7 to 1 in my case) that you actually overspend while you shop. That isn’t the case at the opera, though, as it is one of the few big ticket items we bought in China. So if it’s fairly expensive, is this a must-see event? At first the grating sound of high-pitched and drawn-out Chinese may be irritating, but I promise, you get accustomed to it. It may not have been the best thing I did in China, but it’s all worth it for the ending acrobatics.

 You never notice how far your personal technology has come until you make a blog post about something that happened near on 10 years ago.

The Show

Before you make a decision, you should think about how important it is to you that the show be understandable. I faced the same thing while visiting a Belgian Puppet Theatre, and an Italian Opera, and I will surely have this problem again in the future. I love to watch shows, and I don’t really care if they are in English (the only language I really speak). I digress- everything will be in Chinese, so is that a problem for you? That question wasn’t rhetorical. Really ask yourself that.

“But Rae… I think maybe I will understand the plot anyway,” you say? Well… My dad was with me at the time and thought he had figured it out- a very simple theory, as I recall. This was before he learned any Chinese, and, after the show, we met an English speaker that promptly told us the whole thing. It was a long explanation. It involved a cross-dressing woman (note: this show was not Mulan, I swear). It was not at all what we thought.

 We used to have some equally old video of this, but it was lost in “the incident”

On the upside, as you can see, they don’t really bust you for taking photos. People were eating inside as well, despite it being “forbidden.” I don’t think it was well looked-upon, but if you are a little discrete… we weren’t even the only people filming, and most of the others were Chinese! Oh, and don’t worry about dressing up, unless you really want to. Jeans were present and in fact common in the theatre, and I was the only person dressed to the nines.

The Choices

When you select your show, be aware that China has two kinds of Opera. One is the traditional, with the acrobatics and the elaborate costumes and make-up. The second called “Revolutionary Opera,” which means it’s about the rise of communism in China. I requested our guide to book a more traditional show this time, but when I go back, I’d like to see a Revolutionary Opera. You can make your own choice. Or see both! I would have, were my trip longer, just for the experience.

Dad and I arriving at the Beijing airport


I do suggest you top off your trip to China with a little Opera.

If you worry about not understanding it and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll have to decide if that’s okay with you.

There’s more than one kind of Chinese Opera, Revolutionary and Traditional, so know what you are seeing.

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