Entertainment - theatre, dance, stage, acrobatics...
welcome to Beijing

For the non-Chinese visitor to Beijing, a night at the opera -- Chinese Opera -- is a memorable experience despite language and cultural differences. But the experience doesn't have to begin or end there. As China's national capital, it attracts quality entertainment from around the world and from all the corners of the nation.

Make-up is as much as plot

Surprisingly young, Peking Opera as an art-form began in 1790 with a command performance at the Imperial court by four Anhui province troupes, an appearance that became one of the longest runs in world opera history.

Starting almost immediately with the absorption into its repertoire of much older opera forms -- the 14th century Kun Qu, the less-formal Ping Ju and the spectacular northern China Hebei Bang Zi (forms which still command audiences today) - it developed into its present singing-dancing-kung fu-costume extravaganza whose 12tone music is so taxing to Western ears.

Language and music aside, Peking Opera is made further difficult to follow by its reliance on painted faces -- yellow and white (cunning), red (honesty and loyalty), black (valor and wisdom), blue and green (vigor and enterprise, often associated with rebellious heroes) and gold and silver (mystic or supernatural powers).

The average foreign spectator can probably understand these association except that the paint applications may be part-face or on a specific facial area implying degrees of cunning.

It's really very simple!

Magic in a wooden face

Puppetry in China has a 2,000-ye history and a following that has n diminished over time. In Beijing, it's the vivid and exaggerated but highly flexible performances of the city's first-class Chi Puppet Troupe that commands the most attention.

Lissome suppleness

In China, acrobatics is the ultimate expression of the body's ability to be an art form. Beloved by the Chinese and embraced by the world, acrobatics performances are almost everyday events in the city. Three companies offer programs -- the China Acrobatic Troupe, the Beijing Municipal Acrobatic Troupe and the Railway Cultural Work Troupe's acrobatic team.

Verdi in China

The operas of Europe and America also have devoted audiences in Beijing, as performed by the Central Opera Theatre (the China Opera Theatre performs Chinese and Peking Opera).

Tchaikovsky in China

Western symphonic music has been gaining in popularity for many years, with some of the greatest European and American orchestras and soloists touring and giving concerts in many Chinese cities, especially in Beijing.

In Beijing, the 1951-established Central Symphony Orchestra has steadily increased in stature and has a well-attended regular season in the city and overseas that highlights the talents of many Chinese artists. The newer Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra is, according to local commentators, "vigorous and exciting" in its presentations. Tickets can be scarce, ask early.

Even soldiers dance

Music and dance abounds in Beijing, drawing on the nation's vast array of national, regional and ethnic dance and music forms. The Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble is renowned and popular for its interpretations of Western programs.

Popular companies include the Central Song and Dance Ensemble, the People's Liberation Army's Political Department Song and Dance Ensemble and the Central Nationalities Song and Dance Ensemble, which specialize in ethnic materials.

New performers in town

Western ballet, or its Chinese version, did not exist in China until the founding of the National Ballet of China. Today, it boasts a number of noted home-grown dancers, a fine orchestra and a repertoire that includes the long-running "Red Detachment of Women" ballet-drama.

A newer company, the National Ballet of China, specializes in Western works and includes "The Dream of Red Mansions," whose plot is taken from the popular Chinese novel of the same name.

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