China’s Yue Opera to perform Butterfly Lovers

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Performance part of URI’s celebration of its Confucius Institute, colloquium

KINGSTON, R.I. –October 17, 2007—Don’t miss your chance to see China’s dazzling Ningbo Yue Opera perform Butterfly Lovers at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. It will be the first time the troupe has performed in the United States.

The University of Rhode Island is bringing the 40-member troupe to Rhode Island to help celebrate the opening of a Confucius Institute at URI, one of only 20 in the country and 156 in the world. The opera also complements URI’s Honors Colloquium, China Rising, a public lecture series this fall.

The opera, sung in Chinese, will be translated in real time and flashed on a screen for its English-speaking audience. Prior to the performance, eight female URI students will be trained to participate in the opera in costumes, especially created for them. All of the opera’s costumes will be donated to URI.

“Never has a Chinese cultural program of this caliber been offered in Rhode Island,” says Yan Ma, a professor of Library and Information Studies who will direct URI’s Confucius Institute.

Butterfly Lovers will be performed at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 1 Avenue of the Arts (formerly Brownell Street), Providence, Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets for the general public are $27, $37, $47, $67, and $102, which include a $2 VMA facility fee. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the auditorium’s event line at 401-272-4VMA. Please note that tickets are $20 for college students with valid identification. Students are required to purchase tickets online or at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium box office.

“Butterfly Lovers provides an excellent way to increase awareness and understanding of Chinese art, history, culture, and tradition. Chinese opera is different from Western opera, both musically and visually,” says Yan Man who made the arrangements for the opera’s visit. “All of the actors are female and play both male and female roles.”

Sometimes regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, Butterfly Lovers is set in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420). A young woman named Zhu, disguises herself as a man traveling to Hangzhou to study. During her journey, she meets Liang. They study together for three years, during which their relationship strengthens. When they part, Zhu offers to arrange for Liang to marry her fictitious 16-year-old sister. When Liang reaches Zhu’s home, he discovers her true gender. Although they were devoted to each other, Zhu cannot marry Liang as her parents had arranged for her to marry another man.

Depressed, Liang dies in his county magistrate office. On the day Zhu is to be married, whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from going beyond Liang’s tomb. Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects. Liang’s tomb splits apart, and Zhu dives into it. A pair of butterflies emerges from the tomb and fly away.

On Thursday, Oct. 25 at 2:30 p.m., troupe musicians will perform traditional music using such instruments as the Erhu, a Chinese fiddle; Dizi, a Chinese flute; Pipa, a plucked string instrument with a fretted fingerboard; a Guzheng, Ancient Zheng sometimes called “the oriental piano” the Hulusi, a reed pipe instrument; and the Suona, a horn, especially popular at weddings. The concert, free and open to the public, will be held in the Galanti Lounge, URI Library, 15 Lippitt Rd., Kingston.