More Yue Opera, Better Life
Trial Operation of Phase I Project of Yue Opera Town
From December 30, 2018 to January 3, 2019, Phase I Project of Yue Opera Town in Shengzhou, Zhejiang Province was open to the public on a trial basis. After two years’ work, Ancient Opera House, Opera Fans Pavilion, Children Playhouse, Exhibition Hall of Local Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as visitors’ hall, café, yellow rice wine workshop, snack shops and special agricultural product shops were open to the public in the Yue Opera Town. During the trial operation period, cold current led to drastic decrease in temperature. Mr. Guo Xiaonan, Chairman of Shengzhou Yue Opera Town Culture & Tour Co., Ltd. and a renowned director in China, expressed appreciation to each and every visitor who came to the town, saying that their presence made the town a warmer place. He also emphasized that construction works in the town were yet to be completed, and opening of the Phase I project as people bid farewell to the old and usher in the new was encouraging to all the supporters and contributors. It was also a test for the town.
Invite the Pear Garden God in!
On the day of opening, Statue of Pear Garden God was invited in the Ancient Opera House in the Yue Opera Town.
Pear Garden God was said to be Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty. According to Records of Rituals and Music in the New Book of Tang, Emperor Xuanzong was well versed in music and tunes and obsessed with Taoist music; he asked 3,000 performers specialized in Zuobuji music and dance to practice in the Pearl Garden. Emperor Xuanzong was thus worshipped as God of Drama by later generations.
Statue of Pear Garden God was escorted by performers of Shengzhou Chuida, a local intangible cultural heritage. The statue itself was a piece of lacquerwork, a craft originating in Shengzhou dating back to the Easter Jin Dynasty.
Ancient Opera House
Ancient Opera House is designed to reproduce the way audience watched opera performances in ancient China. It can accommodate around 280 people.
In extremely close distance between the stage and the audience, artists adjust the way they perform, different from the way they would perform on picture frame stage. Surrounding environment and seating arrangement in the opera house give the audience an exceptional viewing experience.
Yue Opera Back Home!
Performances during the opening season consist of two parts. One part is the Opera named Love of the Country—Delivering Letters, performed by successors of seven schools of Yue Opera, including four winners of Plum Blossom Award, the highest award for performances of art in China. They constitute the best team in Yue Opera performance. The other part are classic opera highlights performed by artists from ten competent Yue Opera troupes, showcasing their strengths and distinctive features of different schools of Yue Opera.
Yue Opera came into being in 1906, a form of opera relatively young in the history of traditional opera development in China. It was originally performed by male artists in the form of Luodichangshu, a type of Chinese folk rap. Later in 1923, Mr. Wang Jinshui, a businessman hailing from Shengzhou, invited male artists back to his hometown and recruited the first batch of female apprentices, a group of 20 girls under 13. In January 1924, the female artists were able to perform on the stage in Shanghai. More and more female troupes for Yue Opera performance were later established in Shengzhou. By 1941, there had been 36 female troupes in Shanghai, completely taking the place of male artists.
Yue Opera evolves with the urbanization process in Shanghai. Some scholars believe that Peking Opera reflects men’s perspective, focusing on such topics as loyalty, filial piety, integrity and righteousness, while Yue Opera expresses women’s emotional needs, emphasizing love and marriage. Shanghai, back then, was modern in that it championed gender equality far ahead of other cities in China. On the one hand, female viewers placed their expectations of ideal males on female xiaosheng. Yue Opera thus expressed women’s confusions in love and family life. On the other, female Yue opera artists with Yuan Xuefen as the representative came to realize that nurturing of Yue opera performers was too hasty to enable sustainable development of the opera. Driven by the urge to seek more profit, opera houses did not give complete freedom to famous performers. Ms. Yuan and other star performers thus asked Master Nanwei to script and direct the Opera named Love of the Country in 1947. The script was adapted from the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, and was set in Spring and Autumn period in China. It was debuted in Shanghai Golden Grand Theatre. From August 19 to September 12, 1947, artists who were later called Ten Sisters of Yue Opera performed free of charge, with the purpose of building Yue Opera schools and experimental theatres, which was rarely seen in the history of Chinese opera.
Opening of Yue Opera Town and reappearance of Love of the Country on the stage are therefore an attempt to relive the dreams of predecessors of Yue opera.
Opera Fans Pavilion
Though not spacious, Opera Fans Pavilion is able to serve as not only a place for fans to experience the charm of opera, but also a multi-function and adaptable theatre for performance. Vegetable Orchestra from Vienna and Shanghai Pingtan Troupe have performed here.
Going beyond, many possibilities await this place.
Bending and Swaying Dance atop Poles by Australia’s Strange Fruit
Alexander Boldachev, the “Harp Prince” from Russia
Dolapdere Band from Istanbul, Turkey
White Horse Parade Troupe from Spain
Local Yue Opera Troupe in Shengzhou
Intangible Cultural Heritage Performance
Children play with shadow puppets.
Ou Yue music, an art form performed with musical instruments made of celadon.
Water Screen Film shown on the Shanxi River
Light and Shadow Show on the outer walls of the Ancient Opera House
More Yue Opera, Better Life
During five days of celebration for opening of the town, eleven Yue opera performances were shown in the Ancient Opera House, artists from five countries performed outdoors. Public and private troupes in China, represented by Shanghai Pingtan Troupe and Celadon Ou Yue Troupe each, also took an active part.
Make opera a reality, and make a better life come true! This is the meaning of Yue Opera Town!