Monday, March 19, 2012

Nata Pekinase- A Night of Chinese Arts in Albania

Last night Glenn and I had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Teatrit te Operes dhe Baletit te Pekinit, or the Theater and Opera Troup of Peking at the National Opera House here in Tirane.  The performance was a joint venture between the cities of Beijing and Tirane and this was readily apparent when you saw the marketing propaganda for the respective countries being flashed on the stage's backdrop.  Going in, I wasn't sure what to expect but I walked away having thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Pre-performance the event looked like it was shaping up to be your typical, unorganized Albanian affair.  We had reserved seats complements of the Chinese Embassy but upon arrival realized that "reserved" is a relative term in Albania.  We were fortunate enough to find two seats together in the "reserved" section but others- including Ambassadors and other dignitaries- were not so lucky.  All around us Albanians disregarded the reserved seating by ripping the reserved placards off of seats and throwing them on the floor.  They took seats reserved for others and refused to cede them as others arrived.  Glenn and I were appalled as we watched this but quickly realized that this is the norm when attending functions such as this.  At least we had seats-even if we were sitting in front of a child who under his parents "watchful" eye, hit us on our heads throughout the performance.

The performance opened with a traditional Albanian folk dance performed by Chinese dancers.  Their movements provided a gracefulness to the dance steps that is absence when performed by native dancers.  Traditional Chinese dances complete with colorful costumes and traditional music filled the next hour.  Songs were sung in Chinese with Albanian subtitles which put my shaking language skills to the test.  Even without understanding the exact words it was easy to appreciate the artistic value of the performances.  It was so beautiful.  Two separate acrobatic performances were nothing short of amazing.  The agility and fearlessness of the performers was breathtaking.  There were moments when the entire audience was on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what was to come.  The time between performances was peppered with commentary in both Albanian and Chinese, with the occasional aside in English set to the backdrop of Chinese scenery.  If you had missed the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing there was the chance to see parts of the opening festivities last night.

Overall the evening was impressive and perhaps was one of the best events we have attended since we arrived in Albania.  Yes, there were some aspects of it that "were just so Albanian" but that is part of the beauty of this life.  Where else can one experience such diverse cultures co-existing together in harmony?

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