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Xiang Opera Theatre of Hunan

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Thirteen Blessings

With a history of over four hundred years, Thirteen Blessings that has almost become extinct is a rousing and joyous opening number which used to be a must-play in between performances. It is used to parade the troupe’s cast; costume and stage skills and sung in the dipaizi style. The playlet is made up of six set tunes with lyrics on persuading the bad to repent and wishing for peace and prosperity of the nation.

Cast: Feng Fuqiang, Shao Zhanhuan, Xu Jun, Wu Weicheng


The Hunt from Liu Zhiyuan (Gaoqiang)

This is a representative Xiang Opera number which exemplifies the portrayal of the ancient woman image as refined, capable and persevering. The touching story also offers a chance for the wawasheng (young male role) to show his skillful dance-like moves such as lifting his leg up above his forehead to express the heroic spirit of a young general.

The story takes places in the Five Dynasties. Liu Zhiyuan leaves his wife to join the army. His wife Li Sanniang stays at home leading a destitute life for sixteen years to wait for his return with their son. One day while Sanniang is getting water from the well, she meets a young general Liu Chengyou out on a hunt and confides in him her grief of parting.

Cast: Pang Huanli, Liao Jinghong


He Yibao Writes Petitions (Tanqiang)

This excerpt is written for the Xiang Opera chou (comic role) with singing, acting, narrating and dance elements within the drama presented in a vivid and funny manner, exemplifying the stylized techniques of the role with subtlety.

He Yibao used to write petitions for others, and because of this was harshly punished by Commissioner Niu. He therefore declares that he would never help write petitions again. But two women, née Wang and Jin, seek him out and ask him to help their husbands who have been wrongly incriminated. Out of a sense of justice, He breaks his own vow and writes the petition for them before accompanying them to the Commissioner’s Office.

Cast: Tang Bohua


Three Girls Seizing the Stake of Death from The Life and Death Stake (Tanqiang)

This is a representative piece in Xiang Opera with an intriguing story filled with twists and turns and dramatic stage effects.

Wang Zhijian departs to join the army leaving behind his daughter Yuhuan. Commander He’s son intercepts her on the way trying to flirt with her. During the chase, he falls into the river accidentally and is drowned. Commander He orders Magistrate Huang to sentence Yuhuan to death as revenge. Well knowing Yuhuan is wrongly accused and as an old friend of her father, Magistrate Huang lets her go in secret. For fear the Commander might find out, Huang’s daughter Xiulan is willing to die in Yuhuan’s place. Huang’s adopted daughter Qiuping also competes for the role to die as Xiulan is the magistrate’s only daughter. Meanwhile, Yuhuan is unwilling to implicate the others. The three girls fight to die. Someone offers a solution by placing the life and death stakes in a dark room and ask the three girls to pick them up. Whoever gets the stake of death will die. The three girls fight for the death stake and Xiulan gets it finally.

Cast: Wang Yangjuan, Pang Huanli, Zhu Mi


Under the Umbrella from Worshipping the Moon (Gaoqiang)

A representative piece in Xiang Opera filled with fine and lyrical melody to show the subtle romantic love between the youngsters.

The Song Dynasty is plagued by frequent wars rendering the masses wander about lost and homeless. Scholar Jiang Shilong takes along his sister Ruilian to run away from war. Meanwhile Minister Wang’s wife is also taking refuge with her daughter Ruilan. On the way, they are separated. Shilong fails to find his sister but meets Wang Ruilan instead. The two lost souls support and help one another in their difficulties and make a pledge to marry.

Cast: Zuo Dabin, Li Kaiguo



The Story of the Lute (Gaoqiang)

This full-length play in the traditional gaoqiang style, contains several sung passages with flowing, unaccompanied vocalise that highlight their poignant, humanistic touch.

Cai Boxie goes to sit for the imperial examination and is named the top scholar. The Prime Minister forces him to be his son-in-law. For three years, his first wife Zhao Wuniang is left at home looking after his parents alone and suffers great hardship. Famine reigns in his hometown. His mother is choked to death on brans while his father dies from illness. Wuniang has to sell her hair to bury her in-laws and build the grave with bare hand. With the financial support from a neighbour, Wuniang sets off for the capital with a lute to find her husband. She is able to reunite with Boxie at the studio with the assistance of a woman née Niu and the three set off homeward to sweep the grave of the starved parents.

Cast: Wang Yongguang, Chen Aizhu, Li Kaiguo, Zhu Mi, Xu Jun




Pan Ge Mourns for His Wife (Gaoqiang)

This is a touching piece where the performer expresses the pain of mourning for his wife through his facial expressions, shaking of beard and change in voice.

The story takes place during the reign of King Xi (r. BCE681-677) of the Zhou period. Misled by the calumny of Royal Concubine, Lady Mei and her elder brother, Mei Lun, the King sentences his queen to be hanged. The Prime Minister, Pan Ge, hears of this, and on returning home, discusses with his wife, née Li, ways to save the Queen. Out of loyalty to the King on Pan’s part, and obedience to her husband on Li’s, they come to the conclusion that Li would sneak into the execution ground and take the Queen’s place to die on the gallows. Thirteen years later, on his own birthday, Pan remembers the sacrifice his wife made and mourns for her.

Cast: Wang Yongguang, Tang Bohua


Su Qin’s Retribution from Tale of the Golden Seal (Gaoqiang)

This is a traditional Xiang Opera repertoire where the actor playing the qiongsheng (impoverished scholar role) shrugs shoulders and bends knees to show the down-and-out feature of the character in a natural and lively manner.

The story takes place during the Warring Period. Luoyang scholar Su Qin goes to apply for an official post in the State of Qin against the objection of his parents, brother and his wife. He fails and returns empty-handed to the scornful despise of his family including his wife. In frustration he plunges into the river trying to commit suicide but is saved by his uncle Su Youyi fortunately. Youyi arranges him to study in the south tower where he exercises extreme diligence to focus on his study. With the support of his uncle, he goes to persuade the six states to cooperate and fight against Qin together.

Cast: Pang Huanli, Chen Xiaohong


Meeting a Matchmaker and Being Forced into Marriage (Tanqiang)

Main character of this excerpts, Matchmaker Gong,is an unique role type in Hunan Opera played by a dajiao podan (old woman with unbound feet). This role needs to show contrasting traits through nuanced expressions, such as robust femininity and cute sassiness. The singing and delivery of lines need to be crisp, the stylized movements agile and lively.

This is a composite story made up of two excerpts from The Butterfly as Matchmaker and a modern playlet by Yang Shanzhi, Being Tricked into Marriage. A matchmaker, Madam Gong, wants to find a wife for the government official, Yang Chang, who is new to his position.  So she tricks a girl, Liu Biyan, to board the boat and sends her to Yang.

Cast: Wang Yangjuan


The Gift of a Sword from Princess Baihua (Gaoqiang)

The excerpt The Gift of a Sword from the traditional Xiang Opera repertoire Princess Baihua is filled with song and dance numbers to convey the message of love

Jiang Luyun is an Imperial Commissioner at the Yuan Court. He is armed with a mission to find his way into the High Residence of Prince Anxi who is suspected of planning a revolt. Jiang succeeds to get in under the name of Hai Jun, but arouses the suspicion of the chief attendant, Bala. Bala makes him drunk, then takes him to the forbidden grounds of Princess Baihua, in the hope that this would see the end of him by the Princess’s hand. But when she meets Hai Jun, she is struck by his handsome looks and airs. It is love at first sight for the two, and they make a lovers’ pledge under the moon. She gives him her sword as a token of love, not knowing that this would lead to dire consequences later.

Cast: Zuo Dabin


Removing Bala from Princess Baihua (Dipaizi)

The singing style in this excerpt contains the high and low pitch as well as the north and south style.

Princess Baihua falls in love with Hai Jun at first sight and offers him her sword as a token of love. When Baihua later takes up the role of the army commander to rise, Hai Jun makes use of the chance and removes Bala at the borrowed hands of the princess.

Cast: Zhu Mi, Xu Jun


Zuo Dafen
Zuo Dafen is one of the most famous names in Hunan Opera today. A National Class One Performer, Zuo is also a winner of the 6th Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre and the 8th Wenhua Performance Award of China. She began her training at the age of eleven, specialising in huadan (flirtatious female roles).  She completed her training at the Hunan Arts School where she benefitted from the coaching of many veterans in the genre.  She sings with rich, rounded tones, and is able to portray different characters with insight and vividness.

Wang Yongguang
Wang Yongguang is a famous artist in Hunan Opera, a National Class One Performer and winner of the 8th Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre and the 1st Wenhua Performance Award of China. He began his training at the age of nine, specializing in kaoba laosheng (old man in full armour roles).  He completed his training at the Hunan Arts School. With his crisp delivery and robust tone of singing, he is considered a major exponent of Xu Shaoqing’s stylistic school.

Tang Bohua
Tang Bohua is a famous artist in Hunan Opera, a National Class One Performer as well as a winner of the 8th Wenhua Performance Award. He began his training at the age of eleven, specializing in wenwu chou (civil, military comic roles). He completed his training at the Hunan Arts School. An actor with solid groundwork and comprehensive performing techniques, Tang has won a popular following for his vivid interpretations of many different comic roles.

Wang Yangjuan
Wang Yangjuan is a National Class One Performer and winner of the 17th Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre. Born into a family of Chinese opera artists and now considered a major exponent of their style, she was initiated into the art form at a very young age, with a specialism in wenwu huadan (civil, military flirtatious female roles). Wang has a sweet voice and a solid groundwork in performing techniques.

Chen Aizhu
A National Class-One Performer and a recipient of the Hibiscus Award (Performance for Theatre), Chen Aizhu began her training at the age of fourteen specializing in zhengdan (virtuous woman role). Her singing is soft and rich, her acting solid and direct, she is noted for her in-depth interpretation of roles. Her representative roles include The Story of the Lute, The Story of Li Sanniang and Tale of the Golden Seal.

Li Kaiguo
A National Class-One Performer and a recipient of the Hibiscus Award (Performance for Theatre), Li Kaiguo began learning this arts at the age of eleven specializing in xiaosheng and laosheng (civilmale and old male roles). He is a graduate of Hunan Arts School and has been coached by Kunqu maestro Yu Zhenfei. With handsome stage persona and crisp voice, he is noted for his enunciation and singing skills as well as defined levels of performance. His representative works include Worshipping the Moon, The Story of the Lute and Tale of the Golden Seal.

Pang Huanli
Pang Huanli is a National Class One Performer. She began her training in zhengdan (virtuous female roles) at the age of twelve, and is a true exponent of the Hunan Opera virtuoso, Pang Linong’s stylistic school. She is noted for her insightful interpretations of roles and in particular, her vocal skills. She was the winner of the 4th Hibiscus Award - Performance for Theatre.

Zhu Mi
Zhu Mi is a National Class One Performer Hunan Arts School. She began her training in huadan (flirtatious female roles) at the age of eleven, and later completed her training at the Hunan Arts School.  She has benefitted from the coaching of various virtuosi and veteran actors. Zhu is noted for her pretty stage persona and graceful acting. Some of her best known works include Princess Taiping, The Dyke Breach Disaster, Mountain Demon, etc. She was the winner of the 9th Hibiscus Award - Performance for Theatre.

19-21/7 Fri-Sun 7:30pm
price280$280 price200$200 price120$120

Theatre, Hong Kong City Hall

• With Chinese and English surtitles.
• Please refer to the ‘Extension Activities’ page for details of other extension activities.
• Each performance lasts approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

Click here to download the transcript.