Peking opera at Liyuan Theatre
One of the top Opera venues in Beijing, the Liyuan Theatre has showcased traditional Peking Opera for many years. Located in the Qianmen Hotel, south of Tiananmen Square, the theater offers a mesmerizing peek into this unique world of old Chinese Opera. The area itself is considered as the birthplace of Peking Opera.
The styles used in the opera are based on monkey, Kung Fu, and dancing. The actors are acrobats as well as dancers and every move tends to be sensuous, effortless, and deliberate. The accompanying music is in perfect harmony with the gestures and hand movements of the actors which thus makes the actions more prominent. The elaborate costumes also provide character to the varied performances.
Each performance has 2 to 4 stories or repertoires. English subtitles and explanation of the songs can be seen on giant LED screens. More than 300,000 people visit the Liyuan Theatre every year to check out the wondrous Peking Opera, which begins at 7.30 every day.
The Liyuan Theatre
The Qianmen hotel was constructed in the mid-1950s and renovated in 2002. The theater has been hosting Peking Opera since 1999. The grand opera hall has a capacity of 1000 people. The design, decorations, and architecture of the opera hall is reminiscent of opera theaters in old Beijing.
Seating arrangements include table seating for 8 and regular seating. Simultaneous translation equipment for Japanese and English are also provided. Table seats come with tea and Beijing snacks, while refreshments can be bought by viewers in regular seats. There is also a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs, paintings, etc., or try on face masks or opera dresses. Viewers can check out the make-up process of the actors before the performance begins. Patrons can also visit the Chinese restaurant and indulge in the local delicacies, before or after the opera.
The Peking Opera
Over the years, the Peaking Opera at the Liyuan Theatre has been enjoyed by millions of viewers. It has been developed from varied dramatic forms, particularly 18th century local drama called ‘Huiban.’ The show is a unique integration of performance, music, aria, literature, and face-painting. The rules of the performance are stricter and hence the show is different from the usual regional Chinese plays. Different techniques of expression, such as use of specially painted opera masks to identify varied characteristics like age, temper, etc., and symbolic use of colors, help combine the real and the virtual and thus free the stage performance from all the restrictions of space and time.
The 4 repertoires or stories included in the Peking Opera are “The Crossroads”, a story about the exile of a government official retold in typical Kung Fu style without any singing or dialog; “Farewell my concubine”, a romantic-tragic story about the battle between 2 kings, treachery, and the suicide of the king’s concubine; “Drunken beauty”, which describes the beauty of ‘Yang’ who gets drunk after the emperor does not attend her banquet; and “Bird in cage”, which recounts the story of a mother and her son who get separated during war.
The Peking Opera at the Liyuan Theatre is a treasure-chest of Chinese tradition and culture. Do not miss it if you are in Beijing!