The Moon Opera

I’ve been reading, just not blogging (and still needing to catch up with the hundreds of posts on my Google Reader). But right now, at just past 8am, my mom’s upstairs asleep and the husband’s at work, I’ve got a few minutes to whip up a rather quick little post.

The Moon Opera – Bi Feiyu
Borrowed from the library

I picked up this slim book because of its nomination for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 and its rather different subject matter – Chinese opera. I’ve never actually watched Chinese opera in Singapore, mostly because it would be in a dialect that I didn’t understand, and plus nowadays, the Hungry Ghost Festival performances (meant to entertain the wandering ghosts) are usually pop music-style concerts, and no longer Chinese opera.

Anyway, The Moon Opera features Xiao Yanqiu, a former Peking opera star who has been brought back into the limelight after her fall from grace twenty years ago. She is to star as the lead in The Moon Opera, the very role which led to her downfall all those years ago.

So here it is, I didn’t really like it. The narration was too detached for me, perhaps revealing the author’s journalist background? For instance, when the book opens, we hear the story from the opera troupe leader’s point of view, and this later switches to that of Xiao. While Xiao is a rather intriguing and very melodramatic character, the language (perhaps let down by its translators?) makes it hard for the reader to connect to the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it, was there just too much going on in this slim tale? Or was I, once again, not in the right frame of mind for a book? Maybe you’ll fare better with it.

I’d be pretty interested in reading more books that have to do with Chinese opera though, if anyone has good recommendations!


  1. The premised sounded great, but I don’t think this one would’ve worked too well for me either. Keep us posted if you find a good one about Chinese opera. I’d be very interested.


    1. Yeah it was such a pity! Well so far my searches haven’t really turned up anything too interesting, mostly academic works!


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