Chinese Opera


In centuries past, this mix of music, singing, acrobatics, acting, and martial arts was the most popular form of entertainment in China. Opera troupes toured cities and countrysides performing works based on Chinese history or classic works of Chinese literature. These works were deeply familiar to audiences, to the extent that they could sing along with their favorite passages. Every region had its own local variations in style: Northern, Southern, Cantonese, Beijing, Fujianese, etc. Opera troupes used to tour across Chinatowns in the U.S. too. One especially famous destination was at 5-7 Doyers Street, currently home to a restaurant called Chinese Tuxedo. From 1893 to 1910, this was a Chinese opera venue called the Chinese Theater. Popular with tourists and Chinese locals alike, people chatted casually and walked in and out throughout performances, and admission price was tiered based on what time you arrived. The building had an underground passageway that connected to nearby 10 Chatham Square, which operated as a boardinghouse for performers in town from China or San Francisco. To see Chinese opera today, you might try catching a performance by once of several cultural organizations based in Chinatown, like the Eastern Fuzhou Opera Group, or the ChungYong Cantonese Opera Association. You can also sometimes catch senior citizens singing well-known operatic works in Roosevelt or Columbus Park.