Shaoxing Opera

Shaoxing Opera is a relatively new local Chinese opera popular in the southern regions of the Yangtze River. It originated in Shenxian County, Zhejiang Province, which belonged to the Yue State in ancient times, so it was popularly known as Yue Opera. Yue Opera has a history of about 80 years. It was derived from a kind of story-singing. At first, it was performed with a small drum and hardwood clappers for rhythm and later, choral and orchestral accompaniment was added. It drew some musical elements from Shao Opera and subsequently formed its own characteristics.

Yue Opera is noted for its lyricism, and singing is dominant in it. Its tunes are sweet and beautiful and the performance vivid and full of local color. Originally Yue Opera was only performed by males and then changed to all female performances. After 1949, male and females work together. Yuan Xuefen is the best known actress.

From A Dream of Red Mansions

With the entry of television and movies into family entertainment in the lives of people in Zhejiang Province and neighboring cities and provinces, performances for Yue Opera are in decrease. Besides, Yue Opera is sung in local dialect and may not be understood by people from other parts of the country. And therefore it remains a local opera. But it is very popular in the countryside, especially during festivals such as Spring Festival. Open-air performances are commonplace with crowds gathering in a large square, sitting or standing, watching and listening to the actors and actress.

Every play of Yue Opera is divided into several acts, each of which depict an inseparable part of the whole story. The ending is usually a happy one.

The following is a list of synopses of famous plays.

Butterfly Lovers, The(Liang Shanbo Yu Zhu YingtaiZhu Yingtai, a woman disguised as a man, goes to Hangzhou to study. On the way, she meets Liang Shanbo and they become sworn "brothers." When they have to part after three years in school, Zhu hints that she is a woman but Liang does not understand. Later, when Liang learns the truth and hurries to Zhu's family to make an offer of marriage, he finds Zhu's father has married her to Ma Wencai, the son of the county magistrate. With grief and indignation, Liang dies of illness. As Zhu stands crying in front of Liang's tomb, it opens, Zhu jumps into it, and then the two lovers turn into a pair of free-flying butterflies.

Carp Fairy, The (Zhui Yu): Scholar Zhang Zhen marries Mudan, daughter of Prime Minister Jin. Later Jin grows tired of the poor scholar and wants his daughter to divorce him. When Zhang reads alone by the Bibo Lake, the Carp Fairy disguises herself of Mudan and meets Zhang every day. Jin can not distinguish the two Mudans and asks Judge Bao Zheng for help. The Carp Fairy asks her friend, the Tortoise, to pretend to be Judge Bao Zheng. All is confusion until Guanyin, a Budhisattva, turns the Carp into a woman and marries her to Zhang.

Dream of Red Mansions, A(Honglou Meng): Adapted from Cao Xueqin's novel of the same title, the opera focuses on the tragic romance between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu and praises their rebellious spirit. The opera starts with Lin's arrival at the Jia family and covers the original major plots such as : Jia and Lin read the banned book "West Chamber," Lin buried the fallen peach flowers; Lin burns her love poems before her death; and Jia leaves home and becomes a monk after she dies.

Jade Fan Pendant, The(Qing Tan): When scholar Wang Kui fails to pass the imperial examination he wanders destitute. Later, he marries Jiao Guiying, a famous prostitute, who supported Wang with her savings. Two years later, Wang goes to the capital for another imperial examination. Jiao gives her husband a jade fan pendant as a keepsake. But when Wang's success in the examination wins him the title "Number One Scholar", Prime Minister Han chooses him to marry his daughter. When Jiao receives this news, she commits suicide. In hell, the devils help her to punish her ungrateful husband.

Peacock Flying to the Southeast, A(Kongque Dongnan Fei): This play is adapted from a Han folk song of the same time. In the late Han dynasty, Jiao Zhongqing, an official, and his wife, Liu Lanzhi, are deeply in love with each other. But Jiao's mother refuses to accept her daughter-in-law and engineers a situation in which he reluctantly rejects his wife. The two promise never to remarry. Resolved not to betray Zhongqing, Lanzhi drowns herself in a river. When Zhongqing learns of this, he hangs himself.

Widow Xianglin(Xianglin Shao): Widow Xianglin, a young widow, doesn't want to remarry, so she runs away from her mother-in-law's home. Later she is seized and taken to the mountain and forced to marry He Laoliu, a hunter. After the forced marriage, the husband and wife actually live in harmony and have a son named Ah Mao. Unfortunately, He Laoliu dies of typhoid fever and Ah Mao is killed by a wolf. Having no alternative, Sister Xianglin has to return to Lu Si's home again. Shunned by the local people, she goes to the temple to atone for her "crimes." She becomes a beggar and five years later, on Spring Festival, Sister Xianglin dies on the snow-covered streets of Luzhen Town.

Truth Revealed(Pan Fu): Zeng Rong marries Lan Zhen, the granddaughter of Yang Song, a treacherous court official. After the wedding ceremony, Zeng does not enter the bridal chamber, even though the wedding ceremony is long finished. Lan goes downstairs to invite her husband to join her. At the door of the study, she hears her husband's soliloquy and realizes her husband's family have all been persecuted by her father. Lan, who feels sorry for her husband, asks him for all the details. The couple finally become reconciled and enter the bridal chamber together.

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