Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company

The Four Dreams of Linchuan © Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company

“The Four Dreams of Linchuan”

1 & 2 December 2018

With the drama cycle “The Four Dreams of Linchuan”, Berliner Festspiele will bring four classic works of Kun Opera to Germany, one of the oldest forms of traditional Chinese stage arts. The pieces “The Dream of Handan”, “The Purple Hairpin”, “The Dream under the Southern Bough” and the famous “Peony Pavilion” were written by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) during the time of the Ming Dynasty. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the renowned Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company, the plays will be presented by 30 actors and 25 musicians together over the course of one weekend for the first time. They are distinguished by traditional characters, sophisticated masks, poetic language, stylised martial arts and a dialogue with live music. This once-only guest performance will be complemented by conversations about the tradition and avant-garde of Kun Opera.

At the time when Shakespeare was writing some of his most famous plays in England, Tang Xianzu wrote four plays, which are today subsumed into a drama cycle under the title of “The Four Dreams of Linchuan”, and which immediately became immensely popular. At the centre of each of the plays is a dream that illustrates the characters’ desires and ambitions, but also unveils their fears and dangers. The plays not only tell us a great deal about the time of their creation – Tang Xianzu explored the longings that slumbered beneath the strict social and political limitations established by the feudal system of his era – but also deal with universal topics like the pursuit of freedom and love, the transcendent, ambition and the question of how we should live together.

The audience will be able to discover central elements in these plays that are also vital in Homer’s “Odyssey”, Virgil’s “Orpheus and Eurydice”, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” or Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

Kunqu or Kun Opera first emerged during the late Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and further developed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1649) in the area around the city of Kunshan, near Suzhou and Shanghai. It is rooted in Chinese folk-culture and has influenced many other forms of opera, for instance Sichuan Opera or Peking Opera. This is why Kunqu is considered the archetype of all Chinese opera and was included into UNESCO’s list of “Masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage of humanity” in 2001.

Clearly defined types of characters (like the young female or male lead or the old man), masks and costumes, colours, movements and music – everything down to the smallest gesture has a specific traditional meaning. Beside dance elements that are bound to text and singing and occur throughout the plays, virtuoso rhythmic motifs and the musical accompaniment of a bamboo flute are characteristic. The musicians react spontaneously to the events on stage with certain “qupai” – basic patterns of composition defined by staging and topics. The actors are always at the centre of the production, which is usually directed by one of the more famous Kunqu-players, leading to strong, physical acting by the performers. Despite its strict definition of traditional elements, Kun Opera is a dynamic art form, continually in a process of change through its oral tradition, and in a dialogue with cultural and social developments even today.

Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company: “The Dream of Handan”

The Dream of Handan

Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company
Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Main Stage
Sat 01 Dec 2018, 14:00
Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company: “The Purple Hairpin”

The Purple Hairpin

Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company
Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Main Stage
Sat 01 Dec 2018, 19:30
Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company: “The Dream under the Southern Bough”

The Dream under the Southern Bough

Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company
Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Main Stage
Sun 02 Dec 2018, 14:00
Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company: “The Peony Pavilion”

The Peony Pavilion

Shanghai Kunqu Opera Company
Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Main Stage
Sun 02 Dec 2018, 19:30

“Will it survive? Rescuing Kunqu Opera”
A video about the Kunqu opera


The Four Dreams of Linchuan

€ 15 - 35

Discount rates when purchasing tickets for multiple parts of “The Four Dreams of Linchuan”:
2 parts: 10 % discount
3 parts: 20 % discount
4 parts: 30 % discount

Advance ticket sales start on 5 October at 14:00.

Order tickets online

Accompanying Programme

Accompanying the performances of the Kunqu Opera Company there will be an extensive programme with introductions and talks.