Actually living in a foreign country instead of just visiting it paves the way for a whole slew of fabulous ‘local’ experiences that one wouldn’t normally be able to experience … and that time I dressed up and performed in traditional Chinese opera makeup and costume now sits high on my list of treasured experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. This wonderful afternoon and evening took place earlier this year during the first Chinese New Year I celebrated while actually living in greater China and it was so damn fun…I hope to have the chance to do it again (and again and again!). I’ve saved the costume and headpiece so if anyone want to do it next year, I’m in!!
The current style of opera has been performed since around the 13th century during the Song Dynasty, and it’s about as different to western styles of opera as it could be. According to Wikipedia, ‘Early forms of Chinese drama are simple, but over time they incorporated various art forms, such as music, song and dance, martial arts, acrobatics, as well as literary art forms to become Chinese opera.’
Please don’t laugh but I created my very first video for this (normally I hire an expert, and you will be able to tell the difference! haha)! Check it out:
The process of transforming into an iconic opera performer takes about two hours and – for the ladies – goes something like this:
- Hair is pulled back into a bun and a headband made out of stockings material is pulled tight around the head
- Tape is used to pull the eyebrows up and fixed onto the headband (think poor-girl facelift!)
- White makeup is liberally applied over the face, ears and neck
- Pink makeup is added around the eyes and nose, down to the cheeks
- White powder is then brushed, pushed and reapplied to the face so it’s not sticky from the makeup and ‘set’
- A TON of black eyeliner and eyebrows are painted on, then red lips
- A black cap is secured around the headband
- 9 pieces of felt are GLUED onto the skin and headband, and the hairs that are exposed in front of the headband
- The headpiece is attached on by pinning it on to the headband
I had bought the cutest black wig not knowing that we would have our hair inside a cap so FYI if you ever do this, all you need to do is basically show up with your costume and headpiece, these fabulous makeup artists do the rest! OH, and bring baby oil, it’s the only thing that will remove that glue and it helps start the process of removing that makeup. (although for two days I still founds bits here and there in my ear!)
After our formal dinner party, a group of us went to Sugar’s rooftop bar and needless to say that getup caused quite a stir! Good times indeed!
Sadly I don’t have a good video from our performance but we did a song and dance mashup of a Chinese Opera number + samba + Michael Jackson’s Beat It. It was so much fun and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.
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