Part Two

When we were considering Sean's visit, we checked our local Pacific Asia Museum brochure and found this listing:

Friday, December 17 from 7:30pm–9pm A fabulous evening of Peking Opera Join us for a rare opportunity to see examples of authentic Chinese opera performed in full costume with live music by the popular Chinese Opera Association. Reservations strongly advised, 626.449.2742, ext. 39

We made our reservations, and the performance was everything it promised to be, and more (in both quality and length) and we were again so grateful to live in Pasadena, where we can be members of this wonderful museum and live within walking distance. This was yet another of the amazing special performances and exhibits we have experienced there.

Kathy wore a necklace we bought at the antique market on our visit to Shanghai, and a red Chinese top Rick bought her on their honeymoon in San Francisco.


Subtitles were projected on a screen next to the actors, to help the audience follow the story of a beautiful princess wife, whose husband is unhappy, and she tries to guess why. He finally revelas that all this time he is not who she thought he was, and he wants to see his mother, who is across a forbidden, dangerous border. She helps him, and he promises to return.

As you can see, the costumes were amazing. The make up took four hours before the performance to apply.

What cannot be expressed here, is the wonderful music. The singing is unlike anything else.

We were right at home with the loud and expressive percussion playing all on traditional instruments. The singers use two types of voices. One called Yun Bai, a constrained and poetical voice, and the other, Jing Bai, a natural voice. More about Beijing Opera

Some lines from "The Four Guesses":
"I am caged and cannot stretch my wings."
"I am like a goose without a flock."
"I am like a dragon in shallow water."
"Thoughts of my mother bring tears to my heart."
"We can meet only in dreams."

Sean, who remained essentially on Eastern time during his whole stay, was able to see only the first half,(above) "The Four Guesses", and although he found it very interesting and beautiful, he could not stay for the second half, so this is his chance to see it too!

When we got home he was asleep, and had left us the above illustrated note.


We were glad that Sean saw the first performance, as that was our favorite. But the second was excellent too. It was especially interesting in that the main female role (below, right) was played by a male actor. In the feudal society of old China, as men and women were forbidden to perform on the same stage, all the female roles were played by men. Today, however, there are very few female impersonators. We are lucky to see this performance. There have been several very famous male actor-singers who played only female roles. Interesting and concise information on this topic can be seen, with photos, on this page of Famous Actors in Beijing opera.

The most famous was Mei Lanfang (1894–1961). This script for a documentary on his life gives much interesting information.

Above, and below the actor-singers from both plays gather at the end for applause. Notice on the left, the two female leads. On the right above, waving, is the "dumb maid" who played this part, a different character, in different costume, in both operas. She was so engrossed on stage in watching the end of the "Four Guesses" that no amount of signalling could get her to go on cue to change her costume, so the intermission was longer than expected. There was a wonderful buffet which everyone got to enjoy before and after each opera.

You can see her on the left, below in "The Four Guesses".

Above a quick sketch from Kathy's journal, done during "The Four Guesses". Opera photos by Rick and Kathy

Go to Departure from "Wonderland" Sean's last day
Go to Sean's Day Seven (Poetry reading)
Go to Sean's Day Six
Go to Grandma's birthday dinner (Sean's fifth day, part two)
Go to Grandma's birthday lunch Sean's fifth day, part one
Go toSean's fourth day
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Go toSean's second day
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Go to Sean and Jamie's visit last August
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