Posted by: travelrat | January 23, 2015

A Night at the Opera

Wanlihao  Grand Hotel

Chengdu: 16th May 2014

 On the way to see the pandas, all of us did a double-take out of the bus window at what seemed to be a good-sized cruise ship. But, how did it get so far inland?

The guide explained, however, that this was no ship, just a building shaped like one. And, it was to this building, the Wanlihao Grand Hotel, that we went for dinner.

It wasn’t really a replica of a modern cruise ship. It was more like a ship of yesteryear, with its art deco-ish styling; a throwback to the days when cruising was cruising. Or, rather, how we think cruising used to be, for it was well beyond the pockets of most people in those days.

After dinner, we went to the Jinjiang Theatre, to see the Sichuan Opera. Don’t be put off by the title if you’re not an opera fan, though. This is not opera as we know it in the West, and not to be missed.

It’s an extravaganza of acrobatics, puppetry, shadow play, fire-eating and ‘face changing’ … and some singing, of course!

According to the notes they gave us, an opera student named Sanquin fell in love with a girl called Huanhua. However, she was kidnapped by a jealous rival, who ordered his henchmen to burn Sanquin’s face, so Huanhua wouldn’t want him any more.

But, with the encouragement of the faithful Huanhua and the Master of the Opera, he hid his ruined face behind a mask, and practiced changing these masks so skilfully that the eye just couldn’t detect the instant of changing. He eventually became ‘king of the face changers’, and those who re-enact his role can also change six masks as adroitly and skilfully as he could.

(And, if you think this sounds vaguely like the story of The Phantom of the Opera … I wonder if the original story may have been based upon this tale?)

Sichuan Opera 2

 

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