|Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (The Butterfly Lovers)
The famous Chinese romantic story Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, also known as the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet, has been presented on film, TV and other mediums. But its most exquisite version is its adaptation for Yueju opera. The heart-rending Chinese violin concerto Liang Zhu (The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto) also drew musical influences from Yueju opera. Originating from the rural area in Zhejiang province, Yueju opera is elegant and soft, impressing the audience with its water-like charm.
Gender bending: Women impersonating men (nv xiao sheng)
The reversal of gender provides idiosyncratic dramatic effects in Chinese operas. While men acting as women is widely appreciated in Peking opera, women impersonating men has profoundly influenced the features and styles of Yueju opera since it first employed an all-female cast in 1923.
Taking its theme from fairy tales, literary classics and historical stories, Yueju opera commonly features a jade-like male role with delicate appearance, unrestrained temper and unfettered loyalty in love. He serves as an ideal man during the Wei and Jin dynasties (220-240). Yueju opera's emphasis on love and romance enabled it to tap its full potential as women's theater, utilizing female actresses to bring tenderness and morbidezza into their performances.
These special actresses have achieved a number of extraordinary characters. When famous Yueju opera performer Fan Ruijuan staged Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai in the US, she triggered a storm as fervent as when Peking opera master Mei Lanfang portrayed women in the US. Jia Baoyu, who is depicted as a man with a female heart in The Dream of the Red Chamber, is also brought to life by Yueju opera actresses to an extent that other Chinese operas couldn’t achieve.