Sichuan opera – chuanxi – is a rustic variant on Beijing’s, based on everyday events and local legends. Most pieces are performed in Sichuanese, a rhythmic dialect well suited to theatre, which allows for humour and clever wordplay to shine through. As well as the usual bright costumes, stylized action and glass-cracking vocals, chuanxi has two specialities: fire-breathing and rapid face-changing, where the performers – apparently simply by turning around or waving their arms across their faces – completely change their make-up.
Today, chuanxi has gone into a decline as a form of popular entertainment, though there are several places around town to catch tourist-oriented variety shows featuring short opera scenes, fire-breathing and face-changing, comedy skits, puppetry, shadow-lantern play and storytelling. These are pretty enjoyable and you might even catch occasional full-length operas. Venues include Shufeng Yayun (蜀风雅韵, shŭfēng yăyùn) in the Cultural Park (enter off Qintai Lu); the Ming-style open-air stage at the end of Jin Li, near Wuhou Ci; and the downtown Jinjiang Theatre (锦江川戏馆, jǐnjiāng chuānxìguăn) in a lane north of Shangdong Jie. Seats cost ¥120–220, depending on the venue and row.