Shànghǎi is no longer the decadent city that slipped on its dancing shoes as the revolution shot its way into town, but entertainment options have blossomed again over the past decade. Plug into the local cultural scene for a stimulating shot of gallery openings, music concerts and laid-back movie nights at the local bar.
Need to Know
- Tickets for all of Shànghǎi’s performing-arts events can be purchased at the venues where the performances take place.
- Tickets are also available from Smart Ticket (www.smartshanghai.com/smartticket).
- Shanghai Cultural Information & Booking Centre, which is directly behind the Westgate Mall on West Nanjing Rd, often has tickets available when other places have sold out.
- Check out listings such as SmartShanghai (www.smartshanghai.com) and City Weekend (www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai).
Shànghǎi troupes are among the best in the world. Spending a night watching them spinning plates on poles and tying themselves in knots never fails to entertain. Era: Intersection of Time is a hugely enjoyable and popular acrobatics, music, circus and dance show held nightly from 7.30pm to 9pm in the Shànghǎi Circus World. Feats conclude with eight motorcyclists zipping around within a globe – it's a massive hit with kids.
Back in the 1920s and '30s, Shànghǎi enjoyed a brief heyday in the jazz spotlight, when big-band swing was the entertainment of choice. It remains a popular genre and, even if you won’t catch many household names, there are some surprisingly good musicians here and some excellent clubs.
Classical music is also big, with both local and international orchestras performing regularly. For traditional Chinese music, check out the programs at the Oriental Art Center or Shànghǎi Grand Theatre.
The shrill falsetto, crashing cymbals, expressive masks and painted faces of Běijīng opera are what most people have in mind when they think of Chinese opera, though the art form actually has a number of different styles. A local predecessor to Běijīng opera is the melodic Kūnjù or Kūnqǔ (Kun opera, from nearby Kūnshān), one of the oldest existing forms of Chinese opera, and best known for its 19-hour-long adaptation of the 16th-century erotic-love ghost story The Peony Pavilion. One of the few Kun opera troupes in the country is based in Shànghǎi.
The main problem with seeing a traditional opera in Shànghǎi is that there are no English surtitles and performances can be, well, quite lengthy. But the plot lines are relatively simple, which makes following the action not impossible. Nonetheless, before snatching up tickets for A Dream of Red Mansions at the Shànghǎi Grand Theatre, try the Běijīng opera highlights show in the Yìfū Theatre first.