Kunqu Opera buffs have a feast in store today and tomorrow. The Shanghai Kunqu Opera House will present "Hudie Meng" ("The Butterfly Dream"), a traditional story, tonight, and episodes from other classic plays on the following night.
"All the outstanding artists have 50 years or so performing experience," says Yang Biyun, an official at the Shanghai Kunqu Opera House. "You know, Kunqu is a lonely art form. But these artists persevere and never complain. The upcoming performance is an acclaim for their great contribution to Kunqu."
Featuring Liang Guyin, Ji Zhenhua and Liu Yilong, "The Butterfly Dream" tells the legend of Chuang-tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and Taoist master who doubts his wife's loyalty and tries to test her love for him.
The millennium-old fantasy has been adapted into many dramas and operas and the Kunqu version is described as "classical, dreamlike and romantic."
Chuang-tzu's virtuous wife, Tian Xiu, endures 10 year of reclusive life at home while he travels in search of knowledge and wisdom. Though supportive of her husband's pursuit of Taoism, the loneliness makes Tian unhappy and she has frequent dreams of butterflies.
Chuang-tzu, on his way back home, is troubled by doubts about his wife's love. He decides to put her through a ridiculous test to prove her fidelity.
He pretends to fall ill and die. Then he reappears disguised as a prince and tries to seduce Tian. However, she sees through his tricks. Her heart is broken and she leaves him, plunging him into guilt-filled despair.
Filled with brilliant cultural references, Kunqu Opera reflects the genius of Chinese creativity and the diversity of Chinese cultural heritage.
Originated in Kunshan, neighboring Jiangsu Province, more than 600 years ago, Kunqu has undergone generations of development and has a complete system of acting styles as well as distinctive music.
Dubbed as the "mother of traditional Chinese operas," Kunqu also has had significant influence on other traditional Chinese operatic forms, including Peking Opera.
However, Kunqu Opera has slowly lost its mass appeal to young audiences over the past century and was even on the verge of extinction - the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization declared it "an oral cultural heritage" and an "intangible heritage of humanity."
Chinese Kunqu Opera actors, in recent years, have been promoting the ancient art form among young audiences and have introduced bold reforms into some traditional plays.
Tomorrow night, well-known Kunqu artists - including Zhang Mingrong and Cai Zhengren - will also present some classic episodes from "Mudan Ting" ("The Peony Pavilion") and "Changsheng Dian" ("The Longevity Palace") to local Kunqu lovers.
Date: January 7, 7:15pm
Date: January 8, 7:15pm
Venue: Lyceum Theater, 57 Maoming Rd S.
Tickets: 20-200 yuan