A Night At The (Chinese) Opera

Trip Start Nov 15, 2004
Trip End Mar 01, 2006

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Monday, February 27, 2006

February 27, 2006

> The Chinese Opera Visits Chiang Mai;
Or; "Be sure to bring your earplugs with you to the opera, dear."
> A New And Different Kind Of Massage Parlor

Every February, a few weeks after the Chinese New Year celebrations have died down, the local Chinese community holds a(nother) festival, this one bringing a Chinese opera troupe to town. Now, if you've never seen, nor heard a Chinese opera, it is not to be missed...if you like loud, screechy music, incredibly garish costumes, colorful staging and huge joss sticks burning incense to the point where the audience becomes asphyxiated. Throw in an auction that occurs simultaneously in the back of the audience, and street stalls serving everything from fried insects and roast duck to steak and potatoes, and you've got yourself an entertaining little evening out. And, since we live just at the edge of Chiang Mai's Chinatown, we couldn't miss this one!

The "orchestra" is made of a keyboardist, a string player and a percussionist. Hanging around backstage, I was invited in to shoot photos, since most of the actors and actresses are male cross dressers and just love being photographed. As I made my way up the narrow bamboo ladder I was greeted by the keyboard player...an Asian-American from San Francisco who now lives down near Bangkok. He started chatting away, in the middle of the performance, and told me he gets together with this troupe three or four times a year. They perform for a week at a time and he gets to travel all over southest Asia with them. As he talked, I glanced over at his sheet music...it was all in tiny, Chinese characters. All of a sudden he said, "Oops. I'm back on again, here," and away he went without missing a beat (or whatever it is they use in Chinese music). Hope you enjoy the photos of the performances.
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