Kitsilano Beach to the Chinese Opera

Chinese Opera Veil

I met a beautiful women from Beijing, at Kitsilano Beach. On an impulse I invited her to the Chinese Opera and to my delight she said yes. It wasn’t completely planned or by accident, the tickets had been given to me by friends, one of whom was singing in the cast of performers.

To protect the identity (of my date) I’ll call her Coco, as in Chanel. A striking beauty with business savvy and a background of distinguished achievement, associated with Beijing elite. Coco traded gilded luxury for the steep learning-curve of Canadian integration, so her daughter could benefit. However, the immersion wasn’t going to suit her Ex, so now he’s an Ex (lucky me : ).

Coco speaks Mandarin and could understand as much Cantonese language as me, zero.

We arrived fashionably late but in great style, since who knows how to dress for the Chinese Opera? Middle of July in BC dictates more casual attire, so we were a perfect match. Coco dressed in an off-white light linen top over matching long flowing skirt and leather shoes, earth tones, tasteful accessories and no gold, for an overall elegant look and sophisticated style. My trousers were off-white too, chic shirt and blazer, we looked like a set.

To use a Brazilian expression about Coco and I, she is too much sand for my truck…. Lol ! But how was I supposed to know how special she was in China? My power of intention works. So anyway, there we are, sitting in the best seats (for us) in Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby, and neither of us can understand Cantonese. Fortunately there’s a giant screen over to the side of the stage, so we could read along to the words of the songs.

The spectacle and the music involved in Chinese Opera is certainly very cool and well worth witnessing, however it’s not something worth putting on your bucket list. Highlights are that you don’t have to understand what they’re saying in the songs, because the costumes and the mime acting to accompany the songs explain what’s happening. Good versus evil is the main theme, also the punishment of authority. In many ways the great characteristics of Chinese culture are the plots of the songs.

It’s the music that accompanies Chinese Opera that I like the most, I’m sure you have heard it before, just not aware that you have… but it’s found in Kung Foo movies, played in Chinese restaurants and interlaced into China culture like Reggae to Jamaica. One of the best things about the Chinese Opera in Vancouver is the live orchestra, in a pit stage-right.

Worthy mention on the costumes too, the lighting has a way of shinning on the sparkles in the headdress and hats of the leading characters. Sets remain the same and it’s the costumes that provide the big surprises at the right moments in the story. It’s rather memorizing and pleasant.

The reason the seats were the best seats for us, is that we were near the exit and able to split during the intermission. I really appreciate the Coco had the courage to grab me by the arm and slip us out the back-jack. See, truthfully just to experience one full set is maximum perfect. It was all I had ever dreamed of. If we had stayed until 11:30, and gone back-stage, as was the plan, it would have put Coco in an embarrassing situation. So instead, by 9 we were sipping champagne and critiquing the performance. Two thumbs up!

Coco was so gracious to explain some of the nuances of what happens among the divergent groups, found within her culture. China has over 30 distinct sub-cultures and Cantonese is just one of them. Beijing is famous for the Peking Opera, which obviously is not written in Cantonese. All Chinese celebrate the diversity of China but not always all want to socialize together. For good reason, to the lovely Coco, the idea of being foist into unknown social circles, with a completely older generation and crowd, speaking another language (yet from China) was not fun.

Watching the sunset as we cruised along Kingsway was fun. Laughing and smiling all the way back to the beach was fun. Seeing the marvel of the city that is Vancouver, sparkling on the horizon, that is fun. Since we live on the beach and even though we were 12 miles away, no GPS necessary, just drive towards the sun, all roads lead to the sea and back to Kitsilano Beach.

Photo credit: Lloyd K. Barnes Photography on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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