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Kaleidoscope: Preparing for a Chinese Opera

Photographer Bobby Brill is back with a behind-the-scenes look at the Wuxi city opera

03·18·2012

Kaleidoscope: Preparing for a Chinese Opera

Photographer Bobby Brill is back with a behind-the-scenes look at the Wuxi city opera

03·18·2012

For this year’s second issue of the magazine, guest photographer Bobby Brill got backstage passes to the Wuxi city opera and came back with a remarkable story of an actor’s transformation. If you missed it in print, here’s your chance to get the full story in pictures.

Your first contact with the shrill, nasally notes of Chinese opera was probably a memorable one. There’s nothing in the West like it, so it can be difficult to understand this ancient form of musical theater, of which more than 300 types and more than 1,200 plays are performed nationwide. But while it can be a trying test for the ears, Chinese opera is a mesmerizing spectacle for the eyes—each performer dazzles the audience with extravagant costumes, rather than elaborate stage props. While the performance never fails to impress, behind the scenes is where the real magic happens. The Wuxi city troupe spends hours backstage in preparation for their show, still using the traditional technique of adhering strands of faux hair to their foreheads with natural tree sap. The women mask their faces with grease paint, white powder and dark rouge before adorning themselves with fragile and dainty headpiece jewelry to prepare for leading roles.

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Like what you see? Then have a look at Chinese Ballet.