Dream of the Real Opera

After being re-introduced to Chinese opera through Dream of the Red Chamber, I got curious about the Real McCoy. I researched the web and was surprised to find a local production the following weekend. In addition to the full classic opera “Princess Cheung Ping” (带 女 花)on Saturday, there were greatest hits the following day that included an excerpt of Dream of the Red Chamber. As additional incentive, the performances were a fund raiser for the Self-Help for the Elderly, a local non-profit organization providing senior services for the Chinese Community.

Both performances did not disappoint. I had forgotten how stunningly beautiful the costumes were, and I was warming up to the voices and makeup. Many of the gestures and movement are symbolic, such as horse hair wands used to indicate riding in the open; flags perched on the backs of men’s costumes to indicate high ranking military; and swirling troupes of female dancers to indicate time travel. They all reminded me how unique the Chinese opera form and style are.

I’m ready to delve back into my roots and appreciate the treasures of Chinese culture! While not a simple venture, I feel mature enough to tackle this task: 1. A familiarity with and love of Western opera;
2. Fond Memories of going to the Chinese Opera with my mother;
3. The recent production by Bright Sheng and Henry David Hwang for the SF Opera makes me question how authentically and successfully they were able to convert and interpret a Chinese classic for Western eyes and ears.

More and more Western and Asian blends of culture are coming. With the rise of Chinese standard of living, an unquestioning acceptance of Western art forms, and a thirst for new, modern productions by both sides, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to this spawning of innovative work and talent.

Please enjoy the colorful array of scenes and Chinese opera performers from the two-day marathon below:

On Being a Full Time Student (Again, for no particular reason)

After traveling around the world three times in three years, I finally settled down and organized my schedule to take classes at San Francisco’s local city college (CCSF). It’s a fantastic institution and alternative for students transitioning from high school to the university, working and attending school at the same time, and for those looking to enhance their lives.

I fall into the last category, but as a full time student taking four courses (two film classes, one figure drawing, and my beloved German), I can definitely re-relate to the plight of students. I had forgotten about the big black cloud that descends upon your Life as a Student. After finally shedding it the first time a long time ago, I can’t say this was a pleasant reminder. It felt as if I had lost 50 lbs, only to become a blimp again.

I have more thoughts and comments about being a full time student, but first some visuals and good news: the instructor and my figure drawing class are fantastic–inspiring, supportive and a great group of students. Some visuals of my instructor, a working artist with his own studio, and our first pin up critiques and display of our work:

The bad news is that many of the facilities at the Ocean campus are in dire need of repair. CCSF has approximately 10 sites throughout the city and bonds to fund the improvements are on the ballot. The bond measure is likely to pass, despite the financial fiasco and mismanagement at CCSF that has jeopardized its accreditation. Reviewers were assessing the latest efforts to rectify the problems. And the master plan process is underway. It might help to rectify some egregious and offensive facilities that students should not have to endure.

This past weekend was one of four Open Studios throughout October. Artists’ studios and their work are on display in many San Francisco neighborhoods. It was my first foray into the local artist community. Like Berlin, this city is very encouraging and inviting for the artistic community to thrive and work in the city (despite the high rent!).

Finally, for opera friends here’s another clip from this month:

Curtain call for “The Makropolous Affair”, a SF opera production by Janecek about a woman who lived for 300 years to regret doing that. All her friends were gone and it really wasn’t worth the pain and agony of sustaining life. A good reminder for all of us about our mortality and to make use of it while you can!

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For those wondering, my 2017 travel plans are underway. You’ll be hearing more about them as they become finalized. Stay tuned…

4 thoughts on “Dream of the Real Opera”

  1. Vickie, Where did you see the Chinese Opera? Was it Chinatown?

    I took an entry level drawing course as an adult. The posting of the work was the worst. It was an adult class and most of the people didn’t do the outside work. I did, so an entire class got to comment on my work (I’m not an artist). I stayed through the end of the class, but haven’t had the nerve to take another studio class. Good luck. Glad you’re enjoying it.

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  2. Hi Ruth, the Chinese opera was in San Francisco as a benefit for the Self-Help for the Elderly on Oct. 15-16 at the Masonic Auditorium on 19th Avenue in San Francisco. I was able to connect with a friend who teaches Chinese music at Laney College in San Francisco as a result of this foray back into the roots of Chinese opera. She was trained as an opera singer and has some fantastic stories about her students. In fact, I’m using some of this material on Cantonese opera as research for my scriptwriting class.
    The figure drawing art class is the first I have taken as an adult, so the format was unfamiliar to me too. I’m sure the success of each class highly depends on the dynamics and who is in the group, as well as the instructor and one’s own “nerves”. I confess it is a bit intimidating when seeing how great others’ work is in comparison to mine. We don’t have outside work assignments so that makes it very pleasurable and stress-free. Sounds like your class upped the ante beyond what we are doing. Reviews can be terrifying, but I was somewhat prepared from architectural design reviews that were much more brutal.
    The models are stunning and it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate! So far 3 out of 4 of the City College classes have been incredible, so I can’t complain. If you are interested, take a look at the CCSF course catalog for next semester. They have so many subjects. I highly recommend it.

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  3. Vickie, I LOVE this posting, especially the memories of going to the Chinese operas as a little girl. How I survived them I don’t know, all I remember is I couldn’t wait for the screeching to stop. The symbolic gestures were never explained to us, nor would that have helped opera appreciation at that age. And I was always intrigued how the female singers could glide or scoot so quickly on the stage, I remember wondering then, what did they have on their feet? Anyway, you have brought it to a whole new level. Your journey into everything is a real inspiration! Muriel

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  4. Glad you liked it, and that you had experienced the real thing as a child too! The moves are all symbolic and much easier for stage sets and props! There’s even a version of rap in the Chinese tempo that I love.

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