In honor of the Lunar New Year, Binghamton University hosted “Amazing China,” a Chinese opera show in collaboration with the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera on Sunday, Feb. 3 at Watters Theater.
The Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera (CICO) at Binghamton University is a nonprofit organization formed by both the University and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in sponsorship by the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing. Their purpose is to teach Chinese language and culture and hone its focus of promoting Chinese opera and music.
The night was filled with Beijing opera excerpts, Chinese folk songs, tales, acrobatics and traditional Chinese instruments such as the guzheng and the lute, two ancient string instruments. Performers also wore authentic face paintings and intricate costumes. These components of the Chinese opera show separate them from what is often seen in popular American entertainment.
To start off the show, the audience was taught to say “Hǎo,” which means “good” in Mandarin, and they were encouraged to chant this whenever they enjoyed the performance. The theater was echoing “Hǎo!” throughout the entire night.
Sally and Curtis Hartwig, a senior citizen couple, expressed their joy from the performance at the end of the show.
“It was amazing, really,” Curtis said. “The costumes and the performance is something you just don’t see here in this country … [it’s] very different.”
Sally also mentioned that they’ve been to other Chinese opera shows at Binghamton.
“I loved it. I absolutely loved it,” she said. “When they were twirling their staffs — I used to twirl a baton, and that’s exactly what it looked like to me, as if they were twirling a baton. They went fast! Oh my goodness, this whole thing was just amazing. I’ve been to other ones, here at Binghamton, but I’ve never seen this one before. This was fantastic, I would love it to come back again.”
The Chinese opera performed was a form of entertainment many Chinese American students’ grandparents found pleasure in. Students were also seen taking photos or recording the show to send to their parents.
While some of the audience members were students who were encouraged to attend the event by their Chinese professors for extra credit, many left the theater benefiting more from the experience than just a few points. Rina Weng, a freshman majoring in human development, appreciated how authentic the show was.
“It was a surprise to see that we have an institution on campus that tries to deliver authentic Chinese culture, even if many Chinese Americans this generation cannot connect with it,” Weng said. “I’m glad that the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera still puts in [the] effort to maintain traditions.”