Jingju Theater Company of Beijing: Peking Opera Festival Brazil 2013

After several months of preparations, in the beginning of October, the time had come to travel to Brazil. For the ensemble of the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing, as well as for the local audience, it was a premiere. The first tour in Latin America ever became true thanks to the initiative of the director of the ensemble, Mr. Li Enjie, and the generous support of the Beijing Municipal Government. Beforehand we had to fear that the visas would not be issued on time and were worried that the props, which had been sent to Brazil by ship months before, would not be released by the customs just in time. Luckily in the end, everything went smoothly.

Those who had taken the journey of over 30 hours from Beijing to Rio via Dubai, had to face an eleven hour time difference upon arrival. Nevertheless, everyone was in a good mood, after all, there was a day of acclimatization, which the entire troupe used to visit Rio’s landmark, the Christ the Redeemer statue, from where a magnificent view over the picturesque landscape could be enjoyed.

On the next day set-up started in the venue in Rio, which had only been opened to the public a few months before. Cidade das Artes houses three theaters and a chamber music hall. After unloading the cargo container, the Chinese and Brazilian stage technicians set up the scenery and adjusted light and sound. Although few spoken words were exchanged, everyone got along swimmingly.

On the day of the premiere, chaos had broken out in Rio. Due to a demonstration, one of the main roads was closed, provoking kilometer-long traffic jams throughout the city. The hall filled only gradually and the beginning of the performance was postponed for half an hour, which made the ensemble feel nervous, the Brazilians of course are much more versed facing such extraordinary situations. After the show started, everyone who was previously stuck in the traffic jam was happy to have undertaken the long way to experience such a unique show. Young and old manifested their enthusiasm in resounding applause. Also the Chinese Consul in Rio praised the show.

After five very successful performances in Rio, followed by the renowned local media like GLOBO, we made our way to the beautiful city Petropolis, which served as the imperial summer residence in the 19th century. The drive through the mountain landscape was a feast for the eyes. The local theater, which is integrated into the Quitandinha Palace and is nowadays operated by SESC, was not less impressive. Our exhibition with fine Peking Opera silk robes, which could be admired in all three cities, was a good match for the impressive entrance hall.

The audience in Petropolis was unbeatable. Both the overwhelming vocals of Chi Xiaoqiu in the leading role of the play " One Good Turn Deserves Another", as well as the impressive acrobatic skills of Zhan Lei in the role of the Monkey King generated boundless enthusiasm in the sold-out halls. There was also an additional performance for more than 600 children who were taught the basics of the Peking Opera in a playful manner. Besides listening to enchanting voices and admiring martial arts stunts, simple scenes were played and faces were painted. In short, it was a brilliant success; even the representatives of the city of Petropolis, who had hosted a big reception on the day before, expressed once again their gratitude in person.

Two days later we had to move on again, most people used the bus ride to Sao Paulo for catching up on some sleep, because early in the next morning we would be busy again. While some were diligently setting up, others went to the Confucius Institute to give a small master class in order to familiarize students of different art genres of the Sao Paulo State University with Peking Opera. Under the guidance of Chi Xiaoqiu, the leader of the ensemble, the students learned for example the basics about the creation of Peking Opera or the characteristics of the four role types.

But also the common spectator was not simply exposed to the performances without any background knowledge. Before each performance, the charming Brazilian moderator Julia Grillo gave a short introduction about Peking Opera. It was explained, for example, which instruments can be found in the small orchestra, why there are no tenors in Peking Opera or how to recognize a specific role type based on the makeup. In addition, the audience learned, what is happening in each piece, in case someone at some point was not able to follow the Portuguese subtitles, which were displayed throughout the show.

In Sao Paulo we would be hosted by the theater of SESC Pinheiros. The five performances, accompanied by CCTV in Brazil, were again completely sold out. The culturally very interested spectators applauded rapturously, leaving the Peking Opera troupe with a feeling of joy and satisfaction. And so the great efforts and the hard discipline that usually accompanies the daily work of a Peking opera performer were acknowledged adequately. In the end, the journey to the other end of the world had been worth it.

We thank everyone who supported us during the tour, especially our Brazilian partner Dell’Arte Soluções Culturais, Brazilian translator Andrea Martins as well as the team from OVERCHINA, moderator Julia Grillo, Cidade das Artes in Rio, SESC in Petropolis and Sao Paulo and the Confucius Institute Sao Paulo!