KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Anil and I have enjoyed many Mandarin films over the years, especially those starring the famous actress, Gong Li. One of our favorites is "Farewell My Concubine" which tells the tale of two actors who perform Chinese Opera. We have often talked of wanting to see opera performed in China and didn't want to miss the chance while we were in Beijing.
David wasn't interested, as he had seen a performance when he was in China in 1979, but Jeong Ae was keen so we set off one evening for a performance at the Qianmen Hotel. We arrived in time to see several of the performers applying their makeup in the lobby. Male actors traditionally play the female roles; it was easy to see which actors were preparing for the male roles by the style of the face painting.
Once more we were in for a bit of a let-down. This was not the classical opera that we were looking for; it was more dinner-theatre "lite". There was little of the ear-piercing singing and more vaudeville-style acting with some simple acrobatics thrown in for applause. We will have to return one day and make a concerted effort to find the "real thing" as it was easy to tell that this performance was simply entertainment for the tour bus crowd.
We left the hotel and hailed a taxi across the street. Just as Jeong Ae reached the vehicle, a very large European man jumped into the taxi just behind the driver and called his friends to join him. The driver was a little taken aback as he had already nodded to Jeong Ae. It seems that some foreigners are more-pushy than most of the locals we have seen on the streets.
As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise. While we waited for another taxi, we heard drumming a block away and walked along to investigate. We came upon a group of women dancing in formation along the sidewalk, to the beat of musical instruments played by men. We watched for several minutes as they danced past us, turned and passed us again. It appeared to be something they do in the evenings for exercise; most of the dancers were older women. They even motioned to us to join them but we smiled and indicted we would rather watch. It was a great end to another day in Beijing.