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China's original opera productions

Liu Sanjie

Updated: Feb 2, 2021 govt.chinadaily.com.cn Print
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Liu Sanjie
刘三姐

World premiere in February 2018
By China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater, Guilin Administration of Culture, Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television

Composer: Lei Lei
Libretto: Yi Ming
Conductor: Jin Gang
Director: Cai Weiman
Set design: Tao Lei
Costume design: Yang Donglin
Make-up design: Fang Xuling
Lighting design: Liu Chuanlong
Choir: Choir of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater
Orchestra: China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater Symphony Orchestra

Poster for the opera Liu Sanjie [Photos/cnoddt. com]

Inspired by the widely-known folk tale and its many adaptations, this opera vividly depicts Liu Sanjie and her beauty, kindness, integrity, bravery and great singing talent, and evokes the splendid folk art and landscapes of Guilin in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Liu(R) boats on the Lijiang River.
Liu(C) sings.

Renowned as a great singing talent, Liu Sanjie lives peacefully with the other Zhuang people along the Lijiang River. But the evil landlord Mo Huairen wants to take over the tea-growing mountains of the local people, so Liu challenges him to a singing contest, according to the local custom. Coveting Liu’s beauty, Mo agrees, and hires three scholars to battle with Liu -- all of whom are defeated. Mo furiously captures Liu and places her under house arrest in his own home.

Liu and others quarrel with Mo.

Liu’s lover, A Niu, comes to rescue her, but is ambushed and tied up by Mo’s servants. In distress, he fights them and then jumps into the river. Rescued by her friends and others, Liu thanks them with her beautiful singing, then rows a bamboo raft into the distance to look for A Niu.

Liu boats into the distance at the end of the play.

The play is characterized by its freedom and fluidity. Divided into five acts and an epilogue, it features a balanced and concordant structure, smoothly cohesive with a slightly expanded plot. For example, regarding Liu and her people's fight against Mo, the opera adds three fresh crucial roles that help illustrate the historical background of the story and weaken the class contradictions to fit with modern aesthetic expectations. It also puts a greater emphasis on the emotional expressions between Liu and A Niu with romantic scenes, extolling their sincere love.

Liu and A Niu

Retaining most of its Guangxi folk musical elements, the work makes a wonderful transformation from a ballad to an operatic style by adding arias, recitatives, ensembles, choruses and polyphonic music. Meanwhile, different singing styles are assigned to different roles to enrich the musical languages of the play, with harmonic cooperation between the symphony and national orchestras.

Featuring a strongly realistic style, the set design establishes a perfect recreation of Guilin’s landscapes, with different-shaped rocks, rowing boats and a river all depicted on an ink-painted scroll of the stunning views of the Lijiang River.

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