A Night at the Opera

Nicholas Quirke was doing his best to experience all the culture on offer in Beijing and on 6 December a visit to the National Centre of Performing Arts to see a uniquely Chinese opera was scheduled. He had wanted to visit the iconic dome since he had first cycled past it in march of that year and seeing a 2014 adaptation of ’Visitors on the Icy Mountain’ a 1963 Chinese film famous for songs such as “Why Are the Flowers So Red” was the perfect subject. It was Sunday though and this meant an early start as he was teaching. Once again the temperature seemed to have dropped to minus 4 degrees and despite being wrapped up to combat the cold he could feel the chill blowing about him. He noted that there was a queue outside one of the shops again and there was the usual parade of police. He witnessed this spectacle each week and he asked Lily if she knew what was happening. It turned out it was a real estate office where people were taking money to pay rents, deposits for houses and the massive police presence was to prevent any civil disobedience and theft. Considering the Chinese love of digital payments he was astonished that anyone was taking cash in this quantity anywhere. The class was a little rocky and the children did get to see the sterner side of his temperament when the 4 pupils went rogue around the classroom. He was dining with Peng at a restaurant which they had been to previously called Blossom Vegetarian. It was a straight ride up the road from the school and when he arrived he remembered feeling completely disorientated and feeling it was a really long way away when they were originally there but now was amazed to know exactly where he was. The dinner was very delicious and they had a total of 12 dishes with only one being a disappointment. He was feeling very unhappy about having a dish listed on the menu as Ox tail and Tripe and even knowing it was faux meat he was disgusted by the thought of it. Eating it was a completely different experience to what he had imagined. The journey home was only notable for Peng needing to pay a visit once again to Paris baguette and still leaving empty handed. The start time of the opera was not until 7pm and with time to kill they sat down and watched a mind bending Korean horror film, ‘The Call’ which he was pleased to be seeing in the daytime so complex and chilling was its plot and denouement. Night had fallen by the time they set off and as it was only 3km they cycled through the minus 6 degrees air. He had no idea that the dome, sitting in its lake was so pretty at night with the lights playing over its surface turning it into a multi coloured sphere illuminating the water and its unflappably residents, the ducks. The theatre itself was extremely impressive with and awesome entrance which seemed to go on forever before they reached the actual theatre space. Entry of course was a rigorous security check and he even had to empty his bag to locate the pen they seemed to think was some kind of weapon. The story was set in the early 1950s, and was a a fiercely ‘red’ with Jianghandar gangs fleeing to the Chinese border and collaborate with the KMT reactionary forces, to attack the soldiers and civilians at the borderland. Amir, a new soldier from the frontier guards mistakenly assumes that local herdsman Navruz’s new married bride Grandam is his sweetheart at the young age, and gets into deep obsession. Yang Paizhang casts doubt upon the real identity of the “bride”. In fact, the so-called “bride” is latent spy Gribar responsible for collecting intelligence for the Jianghandar. Set in the mountains the set was spectacular with astonishing use of media of cloud and soaring eagles. It’s was a good night out in China’s premier theatre space next door to Tiananmen Square though he was continually irritated by the restless audience around him and was annoyed when people turned up an hour late. It was a relief to get inside after the cycle home. It was late, he was tired, and sleep came swiftly for him.


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