Yue Opera, originated in the area of Sheng County in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in the early period of the century, is a rapidly developed local opera with a short history in China. It was named "Yue Opera" because it has its origin in part of Yue State in the Spring and Autumn Period dating back about 2,000 years ago.
Known as "Xiaogeban" or "Diduban" (Small Singing Group), the opera was circulated first among the country folk in its early period of development. At that time Yue Opera was simple as it had developed from folk talk and singing. Later it moved into Hangzhou, shanghai and other parts of the country. By now, many years' development has made it a most important opera style next to Beijing Opera in China, taking its theme from fairy tales, literary classics and historical stories. The voices of Yue Opera are soft and beautiful, and easy to learn. Different voices from various schools were developed which led to the emergence of large numbers of fans devoted to each school. The famous and heart-rending Chinese violin concerto Butterfly's Love drew its musical materials from Yue Opera. The film of Yue Opera from the same play won an award at an international film festival in the music category. The male role in a Yue Opera play is always played by women and the characters appear exceptionally charming, natural and unrestrained.
In 1923, the training of female actors for this art form was set up. Since 1928, the Shaoxing opera troupes, consisting of solely female actors, began their performances in Shanghai. In a few years, females impersonating males had become the most important feature of this opera form, and at the same time the yue opera became well known all over China. In the Qing dynasty China (1644-1911) mixed troupes consisting of both male and female actors had been prohibited, and even in Peking opera, the lady-actors were not allowed to enter the stage together with men before 1930.
The texts of yue opera are based on romantic love stories, and they do not include acrobatics or fighting scenes. In yue opera, stage properties and light effects are used and the costumes imitate the light-colored clothes, fashionable at the beginning of this century in China. The most famous plays performed in Shaoxing style are ”Liang Shanpo and Zhu Yingtai”, which is a kind of Chinese version of ”Romeo and Juliet”, and the love dramas "The Dream of a Red Chamber" and "The Romance of a Western Chamber".
Yue Opera as a folk opera style has its origins in Hangzhou. Yue Opera lovers would meet regularly and sing. If you come to Hangzhou and stroll along the lakeside in the early morning, you will certainly hear opera lovers heartily singing Yue Opera. The resident Yue Opera companies in Hangzhou are the Zhejiang Yue Opera Troupe and the Hangzhou Yue Opera Troupe. The "Xiaobaihua" Performing Group of the Zhejiang Yue Opera Troupe is best known in Hangzhou and very influential across the country, and in Hong Kong and Macao. Yue Opera lovers coming to Hangzhou may have the fullest chance to enjoy various performances and Yue Opera styles given by different Yue Opera schools in the city.