A visit to the Sichuan province of China should not be completed without spending and evening at the opera. The Sichuan Opera is not the black tie, balcony and binoculars opera of which you may be thinking. It was an evening of pure enjoyment, entertainment and tea.
I was picked up from my hostel by a driver specifically arranged through my opera booking to drive me to and from the show. This was especially nice because I am travelling solo and the opera was at night. While I am typically independent and have a great sense of geographical direction, wandering around a new city alone at night is not always my first choice.
We arrived at the opera house, which was more of an event tent at the city’s cultural park. There were many display cases set up in a very museum-like fashion to invite visitors into the history and artistry of the many acts, costumes and props in the show. There of course, were also souvenirs being sold.
I was escorted to my high backed wicker seat placed with three others around a small tea table and served the most incredible jasmine green tea I have ever had. Jasmine green is my favorite and I still dream of finding this tea again. I still had five minutes until show time and curiosity got the cat.
I wandered out the back door and found myself in the actors’ dressing room, which doubled as a tourist “dress like an opera actor” room. I saw adults getting dressed up and painted much like children in Disneyland get dressed and made up like a princess. Watching the actors prepare, I felt myself completely consumed in their rituals of preening.
The show itself was more of a variety show than an opera, including about eight different acts each one more enthralling than the last. I watched fire acts, puppetry, acrobats and the famous face-changing masks.
My favorite was the shadow dancer. This woman had hands more graceful than Vana White and could create animations and creatures so believable you forgot they were created only from the shadows of ten fingers. I probably had the most dopey smile ever on my face the whole time, I found so much enjoyment in my experience here. Chengdu proved to be so much more of a pleasure in so may ways. I will find my way back here very soon, I am sure.