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Home History & Culture Chinese Operas Yueju Opera

Yueju Opera


Yueju Opera (越剧) or Yue Opera is one of China’s five largest operas, and ranks the second place among them. Yueju Opera is excellent in expression of emotion, and it is mainly shown with the singing, and the voice is soft and impressive with a local dialect of Zhejiang province. The stories performed are mostly themed with the love of gifted scholars and the beautiful ladies. It is chiefly popular in the region south of the Yangtze River, especially in Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Fujian, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces. In 1954, in the international conference of Geneva, the first color Yueju opera movie named Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai(梁祝, The Butterfly Lovers) was specially assigned to play for guests overseas, and got a worldwide reputation. In June, 20, 2006, it was inscribed on the list of China’s first batch of national intangible cultural heritage sites.

The Still of Yueju Opera

Yueju Opera is originated in Shengzhou (嵊州) in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in the early 20th century. It was named Yue Opera because it originated in part of the Yue State (Zhejiang) in the Spring and Autumn Period about 2,000 years ago. It first appeared at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), starting with only narration and singing. As the performers sang to the accompaniment of a rhythmic didu, didu sound made by a drum and sandalwood clappers, they were also called "Didu troupes." In the late 1920s, with the emergence of a large number of female performers, a Didu troupe with only female performers appeared; it was called the Women's Refined Opera. In the autumn of 1938, it formally adopted the name of Yueju. Later, orchestral accompaniment was added.

Absorbing the elements of Shaoxing Opera, it enriched them and created its own type of music. Yue Opera is excellent at expressing emotions through singing. In the 1950s, a reform of Yueju started, under the influence of Yuan Xuefen. Maintaining its soft, sweet tunes and melodies, and gentle and refined style, Yue Opera adopted artistic achievements from the modern drama, Kunqu Opera and Western music, in an attempt to create a new performance style. The women artists replaced the Mu Biao system (Each drama used to have only an outline, rather than a script; actors performed as they wished, but within the outline.) with scripts. The opera now had definite directors. A special kind of ancient costume was created, modern stage settings and lighting were introduced, and some western musical instruments were incorporated in the orchestra.

By now, many years of development has made it a most important opera style next to Beijing Opera in China, taking its theme from fairy tales, literary classics and historical stories. The voices of Yue Opera are soft and beautiful, and easy to learn. Different voices from various schools were developed which led to the emergence of large numbers of fans devoted to each school.

Popular plays include Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, Dream of the Red Mansion, The Story of the Western Wing and Aunt Xianglin. In the last two decades and more, a number of Yue Opera performing troupes with a contingent of outstanding actors and actresses have emerged, as best represented by the rising popularity of the Zhejiang Little Hundred-flower Yue Opera Troupe.

Where to Enjoy Yueju Opera

The places to view Yueju Opera in Hangzhou and Shanghai include:

Hangzhou Grand Theater (杭州大剧院)
Zhejiang Shengli Theater (浙江胜利剧院)
Hangzhou Red Star Theater (杭州红星剧院)
Hangzhou Yellow Dragon Cave Scenic Area (黄龙洞景区)

Shanghai Yifu Grand Theater (上海逸夫大剧院)
Shanghai Grand Theater (上海大剧院)
Shanghai Oriental Art Center (上海东方艺术中心)

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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