《临川四梦》之《紫钗记》 Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall – A Pair of Purple Hairpins by Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe 上海昆剧团
The shortest of the Four Dreams, A Pair of Purple Hairpins is also the most evocative. Scholar Li Yi falls in love with famous courtesan Huo Xiaoyu and becomes man and wife. However, their relationship was persecuted by military official Lu, and the pair were separated. Huo is consumed with longing for Li. In a dream, she meets a chivalrous knight who is dressed in yellow robes and carries a fine sword. He gifts her with a pair of embroidered shoes (the Chinese pronunciation of shoes is a homonym of the Chinese word for harmony), and she sees this as a sign that the star-crossed couple will find their way back to each other.
In reality, a happy ending would have been virtually impossible under the same circumstances. The knight in yellow robes is a symbol of resistance towards authoritarian power and expresses Tang’s hope of a better world.
Cast: Li An, Shen Yili
About Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall
For every Kunqu performer, it is a dream to be a part of Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall. Written by influential Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu, it is a collection of four outstanding classic operas regarded for its culture value and philosophical thoughts. Author Wang Siren, Tang’s contemporary, summarised the collection as chivalry (A Pair of Purple Hairpins), love (The Peony Pavilion), Buddhist meditation (A Dream Under the Southern Bough) and immortality (The Tale of Handan). These four dreams are the crystallisation of Tang’s experiences, insights and artistry, and have long been regarded as the benchmark of excellence for Kunqu works. Four centuries later, the incomparable brilliance of these Four Dreams still shines bright.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Tang Xianzu’s passing in 2016, Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe began touring performances of Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall to various parts of the world. The performances were well-received regionally and internationally in major Chinese cities, as well as in USA, Czech Republic and Belgium.
The Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe believes in respecting and revering tradition and is dedicated to the continuation and promotion of Kunqu. This is the spirit which the troupe adopted in their approach towards the production of the Four Dreams. A dream unfolds each evening, and over the course of four nights, the troupe weaves a cohesive experience for audiences through imaginative staging that brings alive the literary beauty of Tang’s words and the aesthetic essence of Kunqu.
These works are performed by opera icons as well as younger performers who are given the opportunity to share the stage with Kunqu masters. The result is an elegant expression of Kunqu that is both precise and nuanced — a worthy homage to one of the oldest opera genres in the world.