11 August 2008

Dave Barry Blogs the Olympics


There are a lot of ignorant, narrow-minded, uninformed and just plain stupid people who will tell you that the Beijing Opera is weird and boring. I agree with these people.

The biggest problem for me was the pacing. I'm used to American action movies, which routinely feature shootings, stabbings, sex scenes, car chases, helicopter crashes, nuclear explosions and at least one beheading before the opening title. Whereas in the Beijing Opera, it can take a performer as long as eight minutes to convey an idea such as, ``Well, here I am!''

The performer conveys this by moving slowly around the stage making traditional mime-style motions to the accompaniment of an orchestra playing traditional Chinese instruments that sound, to the ignorant Western ear, like an untuned piano being attacked by beavers. Every so often the orchestra makes a loud noise that sounds like, quote, ''SPROING,'' and at that instant the performer suddenly stops and stares directly at the audience with an expression of what appears to be astonishment, as if to say, ``Wow! You are still here!''


  1. When I was in Beijing, I went to see the opera. I loved it, but I'm a Western style opera singer. I loved seeing how this somewhat alien culture handled musical theatre; so different, and yet so similar. There were moments of artistic pleasure, but for me, my enjoyment was often intellectual. I do think that an individual has to be at a certain place in their journey to appreciate opera of any sort.

    While the article you quoted was humorous, and did capture the essentials of a night at the Beijing opera, I think it says more about the author than about the opera. This is an art form that has survived for thousands of years, and that mere fact alone demands some respect. I think it's unfortunate that when faced with something alien and outside his experience, the author's only response was to poke fun at it.

    While I certainly saw the humor in the Beijing opera when I went to it, and had several good laughs with my colleagues afterwards, I saw so much more.

  2. @beach bum: It's Dave Barry. His first response to waking up in the morning is to poke fun at it.


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