Yue Opera is well-known for its mellifluous melodies, lyricism and aesthetically appealing staging. Each of its different stylistic schools boasts a unique charm. This year's Chinese Opera Festival brings to Hong Kong many National Class One Performers who are also winners of the Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre from the Shanghai Yue Opera Group. They include the Vice President of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group Qian Huili of Xu (Yulan) school; Company Director of the Number One Troupe of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group Fang Yafen of Yuan (Xuefen) school, Zhang Ruihong of Fan (Ruijuan) school; and Shan Yangping and Wang Zhiping of Wang (Wenjuan) school. They will perform four full-length traditional classics: Romance of the West Chamber, Meng Lijun, Tale of the West Garden and Southeast the Peacocks Fly. Romance of the West Chamber, a love story with an elegant libretto, is adapted from the zaju play of the same title by Wang Shifu of the Yuan period. With an emphasis on poetic ambience, the company's staging of this classic in the repertoire of the Yuan school is hailed as one of the most faithful adaptations of the original play of Wang Shifu among contemporary works. Meng Lijun, a comedy with an imperial court setting, is in the repertoire of the Wang school. The libretto is based on the the tanci lyrics of Eternal Happiness by poetess, Chen Duansheng of the Qing period. The light- hearted comedy, Tale of the West Garden, is the signature play of the legendary duo in Yue Opera, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan. The script is based on the work of the same title by dramatist Wu Bing from the late Ming period and the Kunqu Opera adaptation by dramatist Bei Geng in the 1960's. The play has a lively pace, and is exquisite in the staging and design. The story of Southeast the Peacocks Fly originates from An Ancient Poem Written for the Wife of Jiao Zhongqing of the East Han period. It is in the stock repertoire of the Fan and Fu (Quanxiang) schools. The arias, The Lonely Chamber after That Person is Gone and A Fond Farewell, have become classics and remained popular to this day. The galaxy of stars of Yue Opera and their signature repertoire make an exciting showcase that should not be missed at this year's Chinese Opera Festival.
25/7 (Thu) 7:30pm
Romance of the West Chamber
Romance of the West Chamber is a classic in the repertoire of Yuan Xuefen and followers of her stylistic school. Its emphasis on poetic ambience in staging is hailed as one of the most faithful adaptations of the original play by Wang Shifu (1260 - 1336) in the Yuan period among contemporary works. It is also one of the four classics in the stock repertory of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group. The use of the distinctive features of the Yuan school offers vivid portrayals of the characters.
The story takes place in the first year of the Zhenguan reign of the Tang period. A scholar Zhang Gong is on his way to visit his good friend, General Du Que, in Puguan. He passes by the Temple of Saving All Souls and there, he meets Cui Yingying, daughter of the late Prime Minister, who is staying at the temple. He falls in love with Yingying at first sight, so he uses studying at the west chamber as a pretext to be close to her. That night, Yingying goes to the garden to offer incense as usual. Zhang cannot withhold his feelings and recites a poem as a declaration of love to Yingying from the other side of the wall. Yingying responds in kind, and Zhang is deeper in love with her. Meanwhile, the bandit, Sun Feihu and his men are besieging the temple, threatening to take Yingying away as his bride by force. Lady Cui has no other way but promises to marry her daughter to whoever is able to rescue them from the dire situation. Zhang volunteers, and writes to General Du for help. Du's troops come in time and rescue the stranded. But now Lady Cui goes back on her words: she tells Yingying to address Zhang as 'brother', so that the lovers cannot get married. Yingying asks her maid, Hongniang, to deliver a poem to Zhang with a pretext. The missive asks Zhang to meet her in the garden that night. Zhang jumps over the wall for the rendezvous, but by then, as a young lady trained in conservative decorum, Yinging is afraid that Hongniang might discover her intent. So she gives Zhang a set down before she leaves. Stunned and rejected, Zhang falls ill. On hearing this, this time, with the help of Hongniang, Yingying goes to the west chamber at night to visit him. Lady Cui finds out what Yingying has done and interrogates Hongniang, who dares to chastise her as the cause of such immoral behaviour all because she does not keep her promise. Lady Cui cannot but allow Yingying to marry Zhang. But there is one condition: she claims that the Cui family has never had a son-in-law who has no official title for three generations, and demands Zhang to go and sit for the civil examination at the capital. Only when he comes back as a laureate would she allow Yingying to marry him. Distressed over their separation, the lovers say a tearful goodbye.
Main Cast: Fang Yafen, Qian Huili, Zhang Yongmei, Wu Qun
The running time of the performance is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.
26/7 (Fri) 7:30pm
A comedy set in the royal court, Meng Lijun is one of the representative works in the repertoire of Wang Wenjuan and the stylistic school she created. The play originated from the long tanci (narrative with musical accompaniment) piece, Eternal Happiness, by the Qing poetess, Chen Duansheng (1751 – 1796). In 1980, the Second Troupe of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group adapted the stage drama by Ding Xilin, Meng Lijun, into a Yue Opera production, with Wang as the titular Meng. Wang's successful portrayal of a handsome, charismatic, talented and one-of-a-kind woman created a one-of-a-kind female character in her repertoire. It is distinctly different from another famous character she had made famous, the sickly, aggrieved Lin Daiyu in The Dream of the Red Chamber. Scenes like Rendezvous in the Study and Touring the Royal Garden have become classic excerpts and all-time favourites. Many of the play's arias are also popular hits.
The story takes place during the Yuan period. The talented Meng Lijun is forced to flee from home when her entire family is implicated in a crime for which her father is framed. Disguised as a man, she sets for the road. Before her hurried departure at midnight, she draws a portrait of herself and leaves it as a present for her fiancé, Huangpu Shaohua, as a love pledge. Three years later, Lijun, still masquerading as a man under the name of Li Junyu, has plucked the laurels in the civil examination and appointed to the office of Prime Minister. Shaohua is now a general, and returns to court victorious after defeating the enemy. The Emperor wants to give him a wife, but he vows he would marry no one except his love, Meng Lijun. With much persuasion, Prime Minister Li Junyu succeeds in making the Emperor consent to putting off the wedding he decreed to a hundred days later. Through many probings and investigations, Shaohua concludes that the Prime Minister is actually Lijun. But Lijun is afraid that her masquerade may be treated as a felony worthy of annihilating Shaohua's family. So before she comes up with a solution, she refuses to reveal her true identity. Yet Shaohua is too eager to reunite with her and forces his hand. He presents Lijun's portrait to the Emperor in an attempt to ask for Lijun's hand in marriage. The rash act leads to another crisis - the Emperor now wants to keep Lijun for himself. He invites the 'Prime Minister' to join him for a tour of the palace garden. All the time he tries to tease Lijun into admitting her feminine persona through taunt and threat. The clever and astute Lijun manages, not without difficulty, to thwart the Emperor's amorous advances. Stalling for time, she gets away on a pretext, and seeks an audience with the Empress Dowager. There she reveals the truth about her family, her wronged father, and the reason for her masquerade. At the same time she offers wise opinions on state affairs. The Empress Dowager is convinced, and steps in to force her son to put duty to his country first and give up the intent of appropriating Lijun as his bride. This way he would avoid losing a good prime minister and a capable general, and causing havoc in the court administration. In the end, the wrongs done to Lijun's family are redressed, the culprits at court punished, and Lijun and Shaohua are finally married.
Main Cast: Shan Yangping, Zhang Ruihong, Zheng Guofeng (Guest), Chen Ying, Huang Hui, Jin Hong, Wu Qun, Cai Yan
The running time of the performance is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.
27/7 (Sat) 7:30pm
Tale of the West Garden
This lyrical comedy is one of the classics in the repertoire of Xu Yulan and followers of her stylistic school. Premiered in 1980 by the Second Troupe of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group, the play is adapted from the work of the same title by dramatist Wu Bing (1595 – 1648) of the Ming period and the Kunqu libretto by dramatist Bei Geng. The comical effects are created through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences. The stubborn and nerdy scholar, Zhang Jihua, played by Xu Yulan, is simple-minded, good natured and devoted to his love. The young lady Wang Yuzhen played by Wang Wenjuan, is quiet and reserved on the outside but passionate and daring on the inside, a girl who has the guts to break the bondage of feudal doctrines.
The story begins with Zhang Jihua wandering into the West Garden, the hermitage of Zhao Li, by mistake. It so happens that Wang Yuzhen is upstairs trying to pick plum blossoms. She accidentally drops a flower on Zhang, and the latter takes this as a tease to catch his attention. He also mistakenly takes her as Yuying, the daughter of the Zhao family. Zhao Li admires the scholastic acumen of Zhang, and hires him to teach at his residence. One day, Zhang runs into Yuzhen again in the garden. He takes the opportunity to reveal his feelings to her, but Yuzhen sighs and leaves in tears. While Zhang is bewildered about this encounter, the gardener comes up to inform him of the death of the Zhao's daughter, Yuying. The information shocks Zhang so much that he thinks he has seen her ghost. After a lot of hilarious mishaps, Zhang gets to realise that Yuzhen is the sworn sister of Yuying. The two are finally married.
Main Cast: Huang Hui (former part) / Qian Huili (latter part), Wang Zhiping
The running time of the performance is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.
28/7 (Sun) 2:30pm
Southeast the Peacocks Fly
Southeast the Peacocks Fly is one of the signature plays in the Yue Opera repertoires of Fan Ruijuan and Fu Chuanxiang as well as followers of their stylistic schools. It is adapted from An Ancient Poem Written for the Wife of Jiao Zhongqing of the East Han period. The production has entered the stock repertory of the Shanghai Yue Opera Group. In 1980, the play was performed with wide acclaim in Hong Kong by Fan and Fu, two icons of the genre. The local audience was moved by the heart-wrenching love story of Jiao Zhongqing and Liu Lanzhi because of the stars’ consummate acting. Many of the arias like Remember the Blooming Spring Flower of Yesteryears, The Lonely Chamber after the Person is Gone, A Fond Farewell, etc. have become popular classics, and the episode The Vows of the Peacocks is also frequently performed as an excerpt of the play.
The story takes place in the 3rd Century, during the Eastern Han period. Jiao Zhongqing is a petty officer in Anhui. On his wedding night with Liu Lanzhi, relatives and neighbours all admire the beauty of the pride. They praise the newly-weds for being such a fine pair that they liken them to a pair of peacocks. But Lanzhi fails to find favour with her mother-in-law, who finds her ‘wilful’ and ‘impudent’. The mother-in-law even goes so far as to take in the gossips of their next door neighbour, and wants to expel Lanzhi from their home in order to find a high-born lady as her son’s new wife. A couple of years later, she succeeds in forcing Zhongqing to annul the marriage and send Lanzhi home to her family. The loving couple is thus torn asunder. As they tearfully part, the two make a pledge that they would never give up one another, in the hope that they would be together again someday. Lanzhi has a very hot-tempered elder brother. On hearing of her forced annulment of marriage and expulsion from their home, he goes on a rampage to make things right for her, only to be restrained by his younger sister who is by nature meek and docile. She believes Zhongqing will soon come and take her back. But time passes, Lanzhi waits, but no news comes from the Jiao family that welcomes her return. Only numerous matchmakers come and go. Forced by her mother and elder brother with rhyme and reason, Lanzhi cannot but agree to remarry. With her devastations, she finds no one to share her woes. So in the evening quiet, she steals out of her house to cry, just when Zhongqing rushes to see her on hearing of her impending marriage. It is a bitter sweet reunion, and they renew their vows of love with a new promise that they would die rather than be separated. When finally the wedding day comes, Lanzhi throws herself into the pond to honour her pledge, and Zhongqing hangs himself on a tree.
Main Cast: Zhang Ruihong, Chen Ying
The running time of the performance is approximately 3 hours including an intermission of 15 minutes.
Information provided by Shanghai Yue Opera Group
Shanghai Yue Opera Group
Shanghai Yue Opera Group was founded in 1955 with Yuan Xuefen as the founding director. Over the years, the group has created and adapted more than 400 classical, historical and contemporary works including widely recognised classics such as The Butterfly Lovers, Romance of the West Chamber, The Dream of the Red Chamber and Xiang Lin's Wife. Award-winning productions also include the new version of The Dream of the Red Chamber, The Empresses in the Palace, Stage Sisters, The Family, Mei Long Town, The Separated Spring, Jade Love, Zhao's Orphan, Beauty Yu and Deep into Autumn among others. The group has brought together many renowned playwrights, directors as well as music, stage art and acting talents such as veteran performing artists Yuan Xuefen, Fan Ruijuan, Fu Quanxiang, Xu Yulan, Wang Wenjuan, Zhang Guifeng, Xu Tianhong, Wu Xiaolou, Lu Jinhua, Lu Ruiying, Jin Caifeng and Zhou Baokui; playwright Xu Jin; directors Wu Chen and Huang Sha; composer Gu Zhenxia and stage designer Su Shifeng. The current Co-ed Troupe and All-female Red Chamber Troupe of the group have also assembled many talents who have won over 20 times in various awards including the Wenhua Performance Award presented by the Ministry of Culture, Plum Blossom Award for Chinese Theatre, Best Performer Award at the China Theatre Festival, China Gold Record Award, and Best Leading and Supporting Performer Awards at the Shanghai White Magnolia Theatre Performance Arts Award. The group has toured Japan, France, Thailand, Singapore, the USA, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, performing to high acclaim.
|25-27/7 Thu-Sat 7:30pm
||Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
|28/7 Sun 2:30pm
||Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
With Chinese and English surtitles
Audience is strongly advised to arrive punctually. Latecomers will only be admitted at a suitable break.
Please refer to the 'Extension Activities' page for details of extension activities
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