No trip to Taiwan should be made without enjoying the intricately embroidered costumes, the time-consuming facial paintings, the incredible talent of singers, actors, acrobats and live musicians of the Chinese Opera Shows. Going back to the early Chinese periods, these culture and art-filled performances will definitely be the highlight of your vacation. Unlike a typical Opera show, Chinese opera incorporates drama and musical theater, with aspects of singing, dancing, acrobatics, martial arts and other art forms. In Taipei, the location of the opera is the TaipeiEye theater, nestled in the “historical and culturally active boulevard since the Japanese Era.” (TaipeiEye) With shows, delighting audiences four times a week, you’ll definitely have a chance to check out a show no matter the length of your stay.
We only planned on spending two days in Taipei on our recent trip to Taiwan and luckily for us, a Friday show was a perfect accompaniment to our itinerary. With performance starting at 7:30 pm, we made sure to get there early and were greeted by complimentary Jasmine Tea in the lobby, a musical performer and even witnessed the actors applying their makeup in public for our enjoyment and wonder.
While waiting for the show to begin, we were given small souvenirs from the theater (a pen), which was useful in order to answer their questionnaire about our experience there. The walls of the theater displayed projected words, such as Health, Wealth, Happiness in the traditionally lucky Chinese color red. The atmosphere was buzzing with excited chatting patrons and and probably nervous actors practicing moves behind closed curtains.
If you come to TaipeiEye you may catch a variety of shows available depending on the date. Our performance was called “Gold-Coin Leopard.”
‘The Gold-Coin Leopard’ is based on the classic novel, “Journey to the West”. The story is about a rich man, Deng Hong, who has a beautiful daughter. A monster called Gold-Coin Leopard lived in a mountain close to the village. He saw Deng’s daughter and was desirous of her, so he sent followers to ask Deng Hong for marriage. Although Deng turned them down, they still forced Deng to receive the betrothal gifts and set a date to pick up the bride. While Deng Hong became hopelessly lost, Monk Tang San-Zang and his disciples happened to pass by the village. After Monk Tang heard about Deng’s tragic affair, he promised him to expel the monsters. At the wedding night, Zhu Ba-Jie and Sun Wu-Kong transformed into Deng’s daughter and her maid, and waited Gold-Coin Leopard in the bridal chamber. As soon as the Leopard showed up, they started a fight. Eventually, they defeated the Leopard, and saved the Deng Family. (TaipeiEye)
To see what shows are available during your trip, click here.
To help you follow with the story, subtitles were shown on the sides of the stage in English and in Korean.
The show didn’t hesitate and started us off with a dynamic performance of great choreography of very limber dancers under a dramatic spotlight, accompanied by live music from off stage (but in my sight) handful of musicians.
According to Wikipedia, there are different meaning to the costumes of various colors:
“White symbolizes sinister, evil, crafty, treacherous, and suspicious. Any performer with white painted face usually takes the part of a villain of the show. The larger the white painted area, the crueler the role.
Green denotes impulsive behavior, violence, no self-restraint or self-control.
Red stands for bravery or loyalty.
Black denotes boldness, fierceness, impartiality, rough.
Yellow symbolizes ambition, fierceness, or intelligence.
Blue stands for steadfastness ( someone who is loyal and sticks to one side no matter what ).
Pink symbolizes sophistication, and cool-headedness.”
One of the leading characters, I’m guessing a Monkey, was spectacular in his acrobatic and martial arts skills.
Gold-Coin Leopard was scary at first, but warmed up to the audiences with his distinct moves and long locks.
There was a lot of comedic relief, which didn’t require verbal understanding.
Other characters were equally as colorful, talented and entertaining to watch. Sitting in the front row, noting the attention to small details such as position of the feet, the movement of a finger or facial expressions of supporting characters, made for a very unforgettable night. Luckily, photography is allowed (no flash though) and I was elated to have snagged a seat so close to the action.
Can you spare 90 spectacular minutes on your next vacation to Taipei? If so, I highly recommend that you witness one of the Chinese Opera Shows.
Do you need more coercing? The tickets are very inexpensive, you may also get some complimentary Jasmine Tea and a pen souvenir (like we did).