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China's Three Opera Princes
三个王子一台戏

24 May 2012
 

Yueju Opera Prince Zhao huang (赵志刚)as Yue Minister Fan Li (范蠡) in Opera Jade Flying Phoenix (玉飞凤)

In China's opera stage, there are three princes. It is not because they are the sons of kings, but because they are the popular idols of their fans. Simply put, they are not promoted to the princehood by a small group of people from an inner power circle, but endorsed by the audience due to their outstanding performance.

The three opera princes are good friends, both off stage and on stage. In 2007, the trio created a cocktail-style opera mixed with Yueju, Xiju and Kunqu. The drama is about a political struggle between two kingdoms in ancient South Yangtze region, one called Yue Kingdom seated in Hangzhou, and another known as Wu Kingdom with its capital in Suzhou. In the Yue Kingdom, there was an aspirational minister named Fan Li, who wisely developed the economy not based on property market but silk production, sword manufacture and rice grow and he passionately taught people to sing spiritually uplifting folk songs and to do physical exercise by dancing, which was how he met his sweetheart Xi Shi, (西施), a dance expert and one of the four most beautiful women in Chinese history (as legend goes).

Xiju Opera Prince Zhou Dongliang (周东亮)as Fan Li (范蠡) in Opera Jade Flying Phoenix (玉飞凤)

But the kingdom of Hangzhou was lost to the kingdom of Suzhou, and the Hangzhou king was imprisoned by the Suzhou king with Yue court officials either turned to serve the new lord or fled into the wildness. Except Fan Li. He was determined to bring the Yue Kingdom back from the ashes, even that would cost him his life. And he was not along. Xi Shi was determined to help him, even that would ruin her reputation.

Thus the couple rose to action. Fan Li applied for the job of political consultant to Suzhou King, and through him, Xi Shi applied for the job of personal assistant to Suzhou King, looking after his bedroom.

With their good qualifications, both got the positions they wanted. And the king was particularly impressed with Xi Shi's remarkable visual presentation therefore rewarded himself with a long holiday, watching Xi Shi dancing in his bedroom and his inner garden all the day.

Kunqu Opera Prince Zhang Jun (张军) as Fan Li (范蠡) in Opera Jade Flying Phoenix (玉飞凤)

The visual power of the female 007 proved to be deadly and fatal to the head of Wu state. Suzhou king eventually lost his kingdom and his life, while Hangzhou king returned to his throne.

After this seemingly impossible mission was accomplished, Fan Li and Xi Shi decided to quit politics and live their lives as humble fisherman and fisherwoman while practicing Daoism.

 
 
RELATED:

Yueju Opera Prince Zhao Zhigang

Xiju Opera Prince Zhou Dongliang

Kunqu Opera Prince Zhang Jun


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