Master of Music (MM)



Document Type



Huai Opera, a category of Chinese opera performed in Shanghai as well as the Jiangsu and Anhui Provinces, has been a popular type of entertainment ever since its creation sometime in the nineteenth century. With the beginning of the twenty-first, the art form has begun to lose audiences, in part due to the changed economic circumstances, which no longer made it feasible to attend three- to four-hour performances, in part due to problems inherent in the genre, such as old-fashioned plots, the common, unrefined style of the libretto, and the inflexible use of role types, modes, and metrical types. Zhenfang Zhao’s Widow Xianglin (2002) has begun to address these problems. The opera lasts only about two hours and the libretto (by Liancheng Yuan) is no longer based on folklore or history but on a short story addressing pressing social issues in feudal China (such as the position of the woman in general and of the widowed woman in particular). In addition, the opera reforms long-standing musico-dramatic traditions by mixing modes and role types, liberating the metrical types from their conventional functions, and introducing the Western concept of leitmotives. The success of Widow Xianglin appears to have struck a chord with Chinese audiences, as it won several prestigious awards at the Fourth Huai Opera Festival, including the ones for best opera, best libretto, best performance, and best costume design. The success also rekindles hope for the survival of Huai Opera in particular and Chinese opera in general. By investigating the historical significance of Widow Xianglin from a scholarly perspective, this thesis seeks to make a contribution to the survival of a musical tradition protected as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.



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Committee Chair

Giger, Andreas



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