As an important component of the summer performance series of the National Center for the Performing Arts, dozens of opera artists from the Shanghai Yueju Theatre put on a wonderful performance for Beijing audiences in mid-June.
Yueju is a local opera originally from Eastern China. Featuring lyrical arias and elegant dresses, Yueju opera is the second major type of opera in China, only after Beijing opera. The visiting artists of this time generally belong to the third generation of Yueju actors, and among them there are four icon-successors of the four Yueju schools. Qian Huili, the successor of Xu School; Shan Yangping, of Wang School; Zhao Zhigang, of Yin School; and Zhang Ruihong, of Fan School—the gathering of the four stars on the same stage is a feast for big fans of Yueju Opera.
Having won countless prizes, these actors are all conscientious and talented opera actors. On the stage of NCPA, the artists performed the classical repertoire of Yueju opera The Romance of the Western Chamber, as well as the representative works of their own school.
Shanghai Yueju Theatre is an outstanding art troupe of Yueju opera. While several Yueju art troupes in Zhejiang are exploring a modernization of Yueju, the Shanghai part is relatively true to the tradition. The Shanghai version of the Western Chamber is widely believed to possess the most flavor of the original work.
The Romance of the Western Chamber
The Romance of the Western Chamber is a story of young lovers consummating their love without parental approval, and has been called “China’s most popular love comedy.” Zhang Sheng, a young scholar, and Cui Yingying, the daughter of a chief minister of the Tang court love each other, but Yingying’s mother prevents them from uniting. When the two lovers begin to wilt away from their unfulfilled love, Yingying’s maid, Hong Niang, takes pity on them and ingeniously arranges to bring them together in a secret union. In the end, Zhang Sheng is appointed to high office, and the story ends on a happy note, as the two are finally married.
In portraying different characters of this drama, the actors of the Shanghai Yueju Theatre showed their master-hand. They mainly used their acting and singing, instead of the stage scenery to usher the audience into the plot.