Sichuan opera; Chengdu, China

I visited the Jinjiang Theatre, in Chengdu, to see the infamous Sichuan opera and the art of bian lian (“face-changing”). I was first introduced to bian lian via the 1996 Chinese film, The King of Masks. It is an art rarely seen outside of China, because it is forbidden to teach it to foreigners.

The first hour of the performance, before the bian lian began, was a bit dull. Slapstick comedy and underwhelming digital effects masked the fact that the performers were, by professional standards, only marginally talented. Cirque du Soleil, it is not; it's OK, but only OK.

The storyline was a love story of a man and woman separated, with the man’s face having been physically scarred by gangsters who stole his woman. Because of the scars, he takes up bian lian, and eventually they’re reunited, or something; to be honest, I didn't really pay attention.

The bian lian was worth the wait, but, you can save yourself time and money by just watching the King of Masks. The few minutes of bian lian at Jinjiang Theatre is probably not worth the privilege of paying 180 RMB to sit through an hour of average acrobatics and slapstick comedy.

Sichuan opera, Jinjiang Theatre; Chengdu, China.

Sichuan opera, Jinjiang Theatre; Chengdu, China.

Sichuan opera, Jinjiang Theatre; Chengdu, China.

Sichuan opera, Jinjiang Theatre; Chengdu, China.

This guy provided the comic relief.

Jinjiang Theatre, empty before the show; Chengdu, China.

Mildly impressive feats of skill took up most of the show; there was also fire-breathing and knife-throwing.

Chinese acrobatics, of the average variety.

And, of course, what show is complete without fire-breathing; yawn.