China’s Yue Opera to perform Butterfly Lovers

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

KINGSTON, R.I. –September 19, 2007—The University of Rhode Island is bringing the dazzling Ningbo Yue Opera troupe to Rhode Island. Although the 40-member troupe has performed in Europe, this will be its first time in the United States. The performance helps 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.

Never has such a Chinese cultural program of this caliber been offered in Rhode Island.

The opera, Butterfly Lovers, will be performed at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 1 Avenue of the Arts (formerly Brownell St.), 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 went on sale today, Sept. 19, and can be purchased on 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.

On Thursday, Oct. 25 at 2:30 p.m., Yue Opera 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.

“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, a professor of Library and Information Studies who will direct URI’s Confucius Institute, who has made the arrangements for the opera’s visit. “All of the actors are female and play both male and female roles.”

Butterfly Lovers is sometimes regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. 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.

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, a companion schoolmate. They study together for three years, during which their relationship strengthens. When the two part ways, 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 and passionate about each other at that point, Zhu is already engaged to a man her parents had arranged for her to marry.

Depressed, Liang dies in office as a county magistrate. 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.

URI’s Ma is coordinating China Rising with Tim George, an associate professor of history. Ma earned her degree from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, the setting of Butterfly Lovers. She and George taught English at that University, and thanks to Ma’s connections, URI engineering, business, and library and information studies students have studied the Mandarin language, Chinese culture and librarianship there.

URI’s Confucius Institute creates formal ties between the University and China’s Zhejiang University to strengthen and promote educational programs and exchanges, broadening global opportunities for students, faculty, and the larger community. The Institute has offices on the Kingston and Feinstein Providence Campuses that will oversee Chinese language and cultural programs.

During opening ceremonies, the URI Library will receive 5,000 books, DVDs, other library sources donated by the Chinese Language Council International or Hanban. In addition, the Ningbo Performing Arts Academy will donate traditional musical instruments, Yue Opera costumes, and a complete collection of Yue Opera resources –recordings, documents, and photographs.

Last year, Hanban financed a Chinese language instructor, Wen Xiong, who taught 75 students taking beginning or intermediate Mandarin. This summer the office has agreed to fund two more language instructors, support the opera, and other cultural projects. This fall, 100 students are enrolled in Chinese languages classes.

In May, Hasbro Children’s Fund, the charitable arm of Pawtucket-based toymaker Hasbro, Inc., donated $500,000 to URI to support international business and engineering education. The gift was made as part of the University’s “Making a Difference” campaign. The majority of the funds will be used to establish the Hasbro Scholars Fund, which will provide merit-based financial support for undergraduate students pursuing business or engineering internships and studies in China.