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Legend of Four tragedy queens of South Yangtze

23 May 2012

Yang Feifei (杨飞飞)
1923 - 21 May 2012

Along China's east coastal line, there lies China's three economically and culturally most advanced regions, which are, from north to south, Jiangsu Province, Shanghai Metropolitan and Zhejiang Province; and each of the regions has a representative opera form sung in local dialect respectively, which are Xiju Opera of Jiangsu, Huju Opera of Shanghai and Yueju Opera of Zhejiang; and each opera has a master actress specialised in tragedy genre, who are Mei Lanzhen (梅兰珍)from Jiangsu's Xiju, Yang Feifei (杨飞飞)from Shanghai's Huju and Qi Yaxian (戚雅仙) from Zhejiang's Yueju. Along with Xu Lixian (徐丽仙) from Suzhou's Ping Tan (评弹), a musical story telling art, the ladies are dubbed as the Four Tragedy Queens of South Yangtze (江南四大悲旦), and the four were known as good friends as well. But Suzhou's Xu Lixian died relatively young at 62 in 1984. Since then in the next twenty years, the remaining three tragedy queens kept their close bond and from time to time performed on one stage.

In 2004 the youngest among the three, Qi Yaxian of Yueju, passed away. When in early March this year Mei Lanzhen of Xiju also bowed out of the human world from Wuxi, Shanghai's Yang Feifei felt saddened greatly, and even being very ill at the age of 89, she released a public statement to express her grievance over the death of her mate.

Just two and a half month later, in the early morning of 21 May, the same day when the celebrated Bee Gees lost another brother Robin Gibb (sad), Yang Feifei departed this life to catch up with her sisters.

Now the four tragedy queens must have reunited in a higher domain and hold a joint performance once again.


An aria from one of Yang Feifei's classic opera tragedy drama: The Mother Who Is A Slave

Three aging tragedy opera queens performed on one stage

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