Most Americans envision the good guy in white and the bad guy in black, but the Chinese don't. "White used on the face means the man is very bad, and black means honesty and tough character," says Clemens Chung of the Embassy of Taiwan, the Republic of China. Chung is referring to the highly painted performers in Chinese opera.
Beginning its two-month U.S. tour in Washington today, the Fu Hsing Chinese Opera Troupe will perform the "Fisherman's Revenge" and "Wu Sung's Victory at the Inn" at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium at 8 tonight, and tomorrow at Montgomery College in Rockville. Members of the company are students and faculty at the National Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy of Taipei.
"Chinese opera is quite different from American opera," Chung says. "Chinese opera uses a lot of body meaning, a lot of motion," which includes the martial arts, pantomime and acrobatics. Elaborate costumes and face painting are a particular highlight of Chinese opera. It can take more than an hour per person to do the intricate tattoo-like paint jobs on performers' faces. Chung also says that orchestra members memorize their music for performances that can last up to three hours.