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Published: September 26th 2012
September 26 ended with a dinner show at an opera hall on the outskirts of Beijing. The hall was very ornate and flanked on both sides with three tiers of viewing boxes. The whole place would probably hold 300 people. However, on this Wednesday night, there were about 30 of us, front and center, and my chair was most front and center of all, about ten feet from the stage.
As we finished our delicious dinner and turned our chairs toward the front in anticipation of this cultural event, I had my first inkling of trouble when I noticed the three musicians stage right. While one looked composed and attentive, a second yawned repeatedly, and the third appeared to be suffering from a headache. I realized there was no escape just when the singer came out on stage. The Chinese singing style is an acquired taste for Western ears, and ours have been slow in the acquisition. If musician #3 was having a headache, this guy was in full-blown migraine mode, although we had no idea why, since the helpful subtitles on side screens were all in Chinese characters. As he anguished on about whatever it was, I tried to focus on anything that would suppress the giggles that suddenly threatened. Watch the musicians, not the singer. This worked for about one minute until I noticed that one of the men was pulling out his cell phone and texting whenever he had a few tacet measures. No, stop it, Liz, you're right in front of the poor soloist who's pouring his heart out about his lost kingdom or kidnapped child or some such! Then Mr. Agony went to draw a sword from a nearby table, probably to impale himself, and its sheath got stuck on the tablecloth and ruined the dramatic moment for him. That was the last straw. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I just hope the cast were gratified that they could so move their audience.
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