Monday, April 30, 2007

Beijing Opera: A moment with the Monkey King.

Though I'm planning one special post over Huguang Guildhall, I'd like (with my photographs and video), you enjoy a little bit of this character before talking about the theatre building where he is performing.

There is no much to say about it: The Monkey King is a very popular character in China and omnipresent in all its literature since 16th century. Chinese Opera got dozens of pieces where he is the hero, showing magic skills, acrobatics, pantomime, singing and doing any naughtiness you can imagine. Watching him on stage is a truly enjoyment.

Huguang Guildhall is a beautiful theatre built around 1812 and rebuilt many times. There is a Beijing Opera Museum inside and some art craft shops which sale only articles about Beijing Opera (Masks, Puppets, T-shirts, pictures, etc.). It is one of four or five small not in court-theatre working today. Most of their work are addressed to foreign tourism; it seems common Chinese people don't like anymore this kind of theatre, at least in Beijing. There are one big state managed theater, Chang'an, where, they said, work the best actors and Chinese opera companies of our days.

This was one of my several visits to Huguang Guildhall looking, as spectator, for a basic instruction of Beijing Opera. This Guildhall puts on stage only parts of famous and spectacular Beijing operas, never an entire one (usually in two parts with 10 minutes of intermission)and they change of operas every day of the week; so it was easy for me to stay there during one hour or one and a half maximum and coming back every week; without an understanding of it and a bad Chinese comprehension, believe me, it is necessary if you want to enjoy it. After that I could face the Chang'an Theatre and its many large-scale operas.

The part of the Monkey King opera I saw that night lasted for approximately 40 minutes but this is only a 5-minute "solo". I video recorded it one of the last days of October, 2005. We don't see an acrobatic Monkey King but more juggler, playing in a martial art style with this characteristic warrior lance; you will notice, I think, those nice vocal tone and rhythm changes inside his speech. I don't know his name but I recognize him from a few other occasions and I really like his work; maybe without a very fine technique, I have seen him make some mistakes and retake his work very quickly and without big problem, he is very funny and I feel he is very able to stay in contact with those terribly ignorant spectators he has every evening.

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