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Manuel

What's so great about Beijing opera?

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Manuel

Last week my teacher talked about Beijing opera and suggested we went online and check out a few videos, which I did.

The clothes and the make-up looked cool, and the performance as a whole, however musically it was like nails on a chalkboard. That's just how it sounded to me, I am not saying it's bad or good.

Do people really like it or do some people pretend to like out of political correctness? Does anybody here like to listen (not watch) to Beijing opera regularly?

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I've tried to expose myself to 京剧, and other regional Chinese opera, so as to allow myself to develop a taste for it, but it has not worked after 6 or 7 years of trying. I've even been to more than a few live performances in different parts of the country.

FWIW, in talking to my younger (usually 八零后) Chinese friends, most of them say it's something their parents and grandparents might enjoy, but also admit it's not their cup of tea.

Sometimes I've found free and informal performances by buskers doing it mainly for their own fun of an evening without costumes or makeup beside the street or in a park. People stand around for a few minutes and then move on. That I do enjoy, mainly because I can take just a small taste of it.

In Kunming one often comes upon informal free performances of song and dance that are a mix of classical opera and regional folk mediums. Those can be fun.

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imron

Never been a fan.  When I was in China, the Opera channel was the only channel I had on auto-skip when channel surfing.

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Tianjin42

I am fascinated by a good deal of Chinese culture but I also find Beijing Opera (as well as other related Chinese opera varieties that I have encountered) not pleasant.

I have seen some live shows and I do appreciate that it represents an interesting tradition as well as being of some cultural importance but personally I do find it difficult to get past the music which, to put it politely, I find fairly grating.

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JustinJJ

Out of the maybe 20 or so Chinese (all in 20s or 30s) I've spoken to about 京剧 over time, one liked it (actually an amateur performer), most were not in to it and a few said they hated it. They pretty much universally mentioned that the people who enjoy it are usually older people.

They also mentioned that despite the unpopularity with younger people it is 推广ed as part of a move to export Chinese culture. I remember someone mentioning that they once saw a performance and was surprised that a large part if the audience were Westerners, so perhaps 一部分 of Beijing opera is marketed towards tourists.

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Hofmann

I don't listen regularly, but it's an acquired taste. Not saying that if you listen more you'll like it. It's incomprehensible without above-average literacy. It's more lyric-focussed than Western European opera. Furthermore, the costumes, makeup, props, stage setup, etc. are all deliberate and significant, so opera isn't just for listening. As for the music, I'm not sure, but I have a feeling more knowledge about Chinese music is required to make sense of it. One thing is certain though: nothing is random.

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realmayo

I hated the first two hours of a three-hour show I was taken to a by a fan, but by the end was enjoying myself. I really liked how, after good bits, people in the crowd would just spontaneously shout out 好!, rather than applaud. Obviously a less stuffy atmosphere than how classical music/theatre is treated these days in the west. Also, a bit like you see remnants of classical Chinese writing in modern writing, so there's a fair bit of that "nail on a chalkboard" kind of female singing that makes it through today. I'd always thought that the singer Wang Fei for instance would sound different if Beijing Opera never existed.

Also, if I asked the average person in the street in the UK if they liked Western opera, I think most would say no.

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Manuel

Maybe if you understand and prepare for it beforehand I might enjoy it, but only the same way I enjoy an exam for which I have prepared extremely well.

 

For some reason when I listen to music my brain doesn't usually focus on the lyrics, only the melody. I like to listen to music while I do other things, just like I can sip on a cup of cofee while typing away at my computer, and because I mentally speak my thoughts, if I focus on the lyrics then I can't do anything else. Likewise, I can't work if I've got someone talking near me. Therefore genres such as rap, hip-hop and Beijing opera don't rock my boat. When I like a track I usually put it on repeat ad infinitum; after enough times the lyrics will stick even though I may not be consciously aware of their overall meaning.

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Meng Lelan

I like the wushu scenes in Beijing opera. Funny how everyone says just old people like Beijing opera, because when my kids were real little I had this Beijing opera video they watched over and over and over then they would act out the acrobatic and martial arts they saw in there. Also something else I actually visited a Beijing opera training school about 25 years ago in Tianjin, and as a result of that visit, I think we have to understand the rigor of their early training they undertake from age 10 or so onward to the point they can go on stage, in order to appreciate Beijing opera. Some teen boys and girls in there were doing wushu stuff that took me years to master.

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Hofmann

Manuel, you don't seem like a close music listener. A lot of people are like that so it's OK, but Beijing opera is indeed a genre where you need to listen closely. Beethoven also.

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skylee

I think we have to understand the rigor of their early training they undertake from age 10 or so onward to the point they can go on stage, in order to appreciate Beijing opera.

 

台上一分鐘,台下十年功, as the saying goes. 

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Lu

 

Maybe if you understand and prepare for it beforehand I might enjoy it, but only the same way I enjoy an exam for which I have prepared extremely well.

 

I'd compare it to listening to classical music: you (that is, people who like classical music) already know the piece, but you get enjoyment out of how this particular performer interprets and performs the piece in question. Similarly, for Peking opera, it helps to already know the story so you can enjoy how it's presented in this particular form, by these particular performers.

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JustinJJ

This movie might interest people 霸王别姬. It shows the rigorous training the performers go through from an early age. I have a book which teaches Chinese using this movie. It comes with the DVD. I can give this to someone in Beijing for free if they want.

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character

The Shaw Brothers film studio produced a number of lavishly-produced (for the time) Chinese Opera films. They don't have the Opera costumes, but do have the music and singing. I feel the gentlest introduction to Chinese Opera is the film Lady General Hua Mulan.

I think it's worth developing at least a little familiarity with Chinese Opera. It is interesting to see its influence in HK films and even in works such as The Red Detachment of Women.

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Manuel

 

Manuel, you don't seem like a close music listener. A lot of people are like that so it's OK, but Beijing opera is indeed a genre where you need to listen closely. Beethoven also.

 

Maybe only when I like the melody. Just to clear the air, I arrange and produce music for a hobby.

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Lu

 

The best part was the comedy sequence, in almost complete silence, of an innkeeper trying to rob/murder his guest in a dark room (so both of them are effectively blind, lots of creeping around followed by wild sweeping with swords just missing each other). A wushu sequence of spear kicking was also very well done and very exciting.

 

These are classics to the point that when my parents came to visit me in Beijing 11 years ago, we went to see a similar (or perhaps the same) program and it included these exact scenes. Well, they're classic for a reason.

 

I like your explanation and agree with it, by the way.

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