3 of Beijing's best Peking opera playhouses

Beijing has lost most of its opera houses, but a few hidden gems still exist

While many of Beijing's opera houses have disappeared over the years – replaced with modern replicas or torn down to make way for new developments – Peking opera still thrives in a handful of traditional venues. If you're on the look out to bring the family out this weekend for an authentic Peking opera experience, head over to one of these opera houses.
Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House 正乙祠

Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House 正乙祠

What's the story?

Tucked away in a hutong a short walk from Qianmen is Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House – a glorious legacy of Old Beijing that still puts on some of the best performances in the city. With a spectacular interior, the theatre lays claim to being one of the oldest and best-preserved wooden buildings in Beijing. Built in 1667 as an ancestral shrine, it later expanded into a playhouse where masters of Peking opera such as Mei Lanfang regularly held court. The theatre's interior is a beautiful shade of red, its wooden beams and balconies lavishly decorated, with the roofed stage the magnificent centrepiece. While Temple Theatre is known for classical Peking opera and Kunqu (昆曲), another popular opera form originating from Jiangsu province, the theatre also hosts an eclectic range of performing arts, including avant-garde dance. The theatre's staging, of course, adds a unique atmosphere.

When can I go?
The theatre is only open during performance times for ticket holders with performances happening every Friday to Sunday. In addition, you can check out their latest performance schedule and buy tickets on its official WeChat (ID: zhengyicixilou). 

Read more here. 

Huguang Guild Hall 湖广会馆

Huguang Guild Hall 湖广会馆

What's the story?

The Huguang Guild Hall is a courtyard complex just south of Caishikou. The theatre was built in 1807 and was formerly home to high-ranking officials in the Qing Dynasty and featured Peking opera performances from various renowned performers. It was restored and reopened in May 1996 and has since then served as a museum and theatre, open to the general public. It is still an active playhouse today and also the home to the Beijing Opera Museum (10RMB). The museum tells the story of the history of Peking opera with photographs, performance accessories, costumes and traditional musical instruments such as the pipa (琵琶). 

When can I go?
There's a daily Peking opera performance at 6.30pm. As well as traditional opera (tickets 180-680RMB), the theatre also hosts Crosstalk (xiangsheng, 相声) shows from famous masters such as Guo Degang (郭德纲). Performances are at 8pm daily (except Mondays) and afternoon performances are at 2.30pm on weekends, but you can also visit outside of performance times as the museum is open.

Read more here. 

Mei Lanfang Grand Theatre 梅兰芳大剧院

Mei Lanfang Grand Theatre 梅兰芳大剧院

What's the story?

This building on the west side of the city covers three storeys and has 1,035 seats to accommodate the huge audiences expected to fill it. The modern theatre was built specifically for Jingju and houses a bronze sculpture of its namesake Mei Lanfang – China's most famous Peking opera singer – in the centre of the lobby. Elsewhere is a sculpture of Emperor Tang Minghuang, the so-called ‘father of Chinese Opera', who organised and trained the first opera troupes. Performers used to pray to the sculpture for good luck before stepping on stage. Also in the theatre is a painting of Guan Yu, the Martial Art God played in Jingju. Guan Yu represents bravery, honesty, sincerity and filial piety; all performers who play this character traditionally bathe before the show as a sign of respect. While this theatre is a little less 'traditional' in appearance, if you're after a Peking opera venue with state-of-the-art facilities, the Mei Lanfang Grand Theatre is the the one head to. It is a a versatile platform for a range of large-scale shows – ground zero for Beijing's opera buffs. 

When can I go?
The theatre is open everyday and offers a range of performances. Performance schedules and tickets can be booked directly on its official WeChat (ID: mlfdjy)

Read more here. 

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