Life in Shaoxing  
Yueju Opera

During the Tongzhi Period of the Qing Dynasty, there appeared a ballad singing art form in Shengxian rural area. The artists borrowed traditional melodies to tell short stories. The art became popular rapidly and developed its own new melodies for ballad singing. During the Spring Festival of 1906, the 32nd year of the Guangxu Period of the Qing Dynasty, six performers in Shengxian rural area first dressed up and performed on a drama stage. As the performers sang to the accompaniment of percussion instruments that marked rhythms, the art group was locally known as “Didu Performing Group”, named after the sounds of the rhythm-marking instruments. Gradually, the ballad-singing art grew into a local opera and became popular in Shaoxing and Ningbo.


In the early years of the Republic of China, these singing groups gravitated toward Shanghai. They called themselves as Literary Drama from Shaoxing to distinguish themselves from Shaoxing Daban. In 1921, the Literary Drama from Shaoxing changed its name to Stringed Tones, starting to use stringed musical instruments in accompaniment. After this significant change, Yueju Opera experienced its best days during the 1930s and 1940s. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Yueju Opera became an opera of national renown second only to Beijing Opera.

In the 1950s, following the proposal by late Premier Zhou Enlai, Zhejiang Second Yueju Opera Troupe and Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater and other opera troupes began to experiment on male and female artists perform together. They reformed arias and melodies to suit the co-performance. The male and female performance not only created space for new stories and better expressions, but also produced a batch of popular male performers.


Editor: Wang Moyan



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