Yue Opera Repertoire
The Chinese lover story -- "Butterfly Lovers", or "Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai" - has been adapted into many kinds of opera genres, and the Yue opera version of the story is among the most successful. The story goes like this:
In order that she may travel to Hangzhou, a city in Zhejiang Province, to study, Zhu Yingtai impersonates and takes on a male identity. There she meets Liang Shanbo and in the course of their studies, they become extremely close friends.
When the time comes for Yingtai to return home, the pair hesitate greatly in departure, entreating each other with much ceremony and suppressed sadness. Yingtai offers "his" younger sister"s hand in marriage and entreats Shanbo to visit "his" residence soon to raise the issue of marriage with "his" parents. Shanbo is unaware that Yingtai does not have a younger sister and is in fact offering her own hand in marriage.
A year passes before Shanbo makes his way to the Zhu Residence. Liang Shanbo is overjoyed to realize Yingtai"s true identity and that she is in love with him. However, happiness turns into sorrow as the two soon discover that Yingtai has been betrothed to another man. In great sadness, the two lovers meet at the tower and lament their great misfortune. Upon his return to Hangzhou, Shanbo falls ill in his great misery and dies. Yingtai hears of this on her marriage day and flees to his grave. There, folklore has it that her crying so moved the heavens that the clouds themselves shed tears at her grief. Further, the earth beneath her cracked apart, and the ill-fated Yingtai commits suicide by jumping into the opened grave. Miraculously, the pair are transformed into butterflies. Arising into the air, they flutter and dance side by side among the flowers, never to be separated again.
The play focuses on the tragic fates of four women in four generations of a large feudal family at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The plot revolves around Qiuhua who suffers from the harsh and cruel treatment of her mother-in-law Donghua.
When Qiuhua gives birth to a daughter, Donghua feels so unhappy that she abandons the little girl in the mountains and tells Qiuhua her daughter is dead. Meanwhile, the cold mother-in-law gets a boy to take the place of the poor girl and orders Qiuhua to bring him up as the male heir of the family.
Bitter days come to an end at long last when Qiuhua herself becomes a mother-in-law. Her "son," a young revolutionary, brings his wife Chunhua into the closely guarded feudal family, along with new ideas from the modern world.
The young Chunhua, who could not bear the torture of life in the feudal family, refuses to show obedience to Santaipo, Donghua"s mother-in-law and the head of the family.
Recalling her bitter experience, Qiuhua protects her from Santaipo"s harshness.
Chunhua later dies during childbirth in the arms of Qiuhua. Just before her death, Qiuhua finds that her daughter-in-law is actually her long-lost daughter.
Bao Chaozan, a veteran playwright from Zhejiang Province, shows great concern about the fate of Chinese women, and has written several stories on this theme.