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Flowing charm: Yueju opera

2013-07-25 17:15:54



Threefold reforms and revivals

Yueju opera was first circulated as a form of folk storytelling among peasants in the countryside of Zhejiang province in the mid-nineteenth century. Over time, it grew in popularity, now becoming the most popular form of Chinese opera after Peking opera. Performers and artists have contributed significantly to the development of Yueju opera, bringing revivals and dynamism to the art.

Yuan Xuefen, who has been called "inarguably the most important actress in the recent history of Yueju opera", started a reform in the 1940s. By drawing on the experience of Peking opera and Kunqu opera, she established the director system in Yueju opera and broadened its themes, which in the past concluded either as a marriage against the patriarchic will or with a poor scholar’s triumph over the imperial examination system. The staging of Aunt Xiang Lin, an adaptation of Chinese writer Luxun’ s short story Blessing, was influential to the art form’s progress. In terms of art skill, she enabled Yueju opera to better express the complex and strong emotions by enriching the vocal styles.

After the foundation of the People's Republic of China, national theaters were built and communication among different schools of Yueju opera boosted. Four classic Yueju operas (Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, Aunt Xiang Lin, The Dream of the Red Chamber and The Romance of the Western Chamber) produced at this time yielded unusually bright results and extended Yueju opera’s popularity nationally and even abroad. Shanghai city and Zhejiang province are two centers of Yueju opera, with the former focusing on the succession of classic styles and the latter exploring the possibility of innovation. In 2006, Yueju opera was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

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