Nai-Xin Anne Long

8 DEC 1988

Chinese Opera’s Characteristics

V.  The Audience
     In Peking Opera As a European Sees It, Marie-Luise Latsch makes an interesting statement about Chinese theatergoers: 
                        If someone said that he'd go to see an opera, he would simply be laughed at, for
                 that  showed quite clearly that he was not a connoisseur, as a connoisseur would go
                 and hear an opera.  During a long passage of singing, he would sit with eyes closed,
                 clapping out the time with his hands and musing over the words of the songs.  (13)
     It is very true that the audience go to the theater mainly for enjoying the musical component of Chinese Opera.  They are not interested in united effect.  So when a character narrates for himself, the audience would focus on how well the player chants the special stage language without thinking of the fact that it is reasonable or not.  From the viewpoint of a typical Chinese theatergoer, it is the singing that brings out the highlight of a play.  Nothing can be more worthy and satisfactory than finding a player that resembles Mei Lanfang or Yu Shuyan while singing.  However, it takes a long time to become a real connoisseur.  One cannot understand the whole performing system of Chinese Opera unless he or she has seen at least hundreds of performances. To those who have hot become connoisseurs, colorful costumes, various make-up styles, symbolic gestures, and acrobatics are the attractions.