“The Opera” offers an insight into the fragile world of the Peking Opera, one of China’s most revered cultural heritages, across artistic, social and human aspects. As a classical art form with roots in the 18th century, tradition requires that all roles are performed by male singers, including the female ones. Varvara Shavrova focuses on the transformation of Peking Opera artists from male to female and vice versa – in preparation for their roles, on stage and in private moments. Although they are admired by society as artists, their true identities cannot be lived out openly.
Looking into the archaic and often utopian world of Chinese opera, Shavrova investigates issues of personal identity, sexuality and gender bending as manifested by both traditional and contemporary culture in China today. Balancing moments of pure visuality with the austere formal codes of traditional choreography, the video underscores the striking avant-garde qualities of this most traditional of art forms. The work is accompanied by music written especially by Beijing-based composer Benoit Granier, incorporating elements of traditional Chinese and electronic music.