Yueju, Zhejiang opera


Yueju, Zhejiang opera
Sung-drama, opera
Formed by peasant balladeers in Shaoxing in eastern Zhejiang, it was brought to Shanghai about 1916. The orchestration, initially only percussion, became more complex, with string instruments absorbed from other styles. A girls’ school set up in 1923 trained actresses for the style, and by the late 1920s all-female troupes competed with all-male. By the mid 1930s virtually all Yueju troupes were entirely female. As a result, content tends strongly to be romantic or social, or to feature women, with very few military plots. The music, orchestration and singing are quite gentle in tone, and the costumes accord with the style’s romantic feel.
The PRC was active in promoting the Zhejiang Opera from the start. Several items featured in the 1952 government-sponsored First Festival of Traditional Drama, including the famous love story Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the tragic story of the couple in the title. They are transformed into butterflies after death, hence the name by which the drama is usually known, The Butterfly Lovers. The Shanghai Zhejiang Opera Company, still the best representative of the genre and very active in promoting it, was established in 1955.
During the Cultural Revolution, all-female casts went out of fashion and romantic themes succumbed to crass propaganda featuring class struggle.
Since the late 1970s, however, the old themes have returned, being supplemented by newly written dramas also with romantic or social themes. Men play evil roles, but women again perform the scholar-lover characters. There are exceptions. In Su Leici’s adaptation of Hamlet, entitled A Record of a Prince’s Revenge (Wangzi fuchou ji), performed at the 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival, a man plays the prince. The item is set in ancient China and is a particularly innovative example of Shakespeare in Chinese theatre. Because of the flexibility shown in this example, Yueju has weathered the challenges of modernization better than most traditional styles.
(1962). Yueju congkan 1 and 2. Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe.
(1983). Zaoqi yueju fazhanshi. Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe.
Chen, Zhiqing (1999). Nanyin yue’ou de cilu quyun. Hong Kong: Xianggang wenxue baoshe.
Fan, Jingfen (1986). Yueju xikao. Hangzhou: Zhejiang wenyi chubanshe.
Zhou, Dafeng (1995). Yueju yinyue gailun. Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe.
COLIN MACKERRAS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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