Golden Lily 金莲

an Opera in 3 Acts (2014-2021)

Golden Lily is an opera in 3 acts with 9 scenes by composer FANG Man with a libretto by GUO Jie. It is based on the anonymous late sixteenth-century Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei, which centers on the relations between the wealthy merchant Ximen Qing and his wives and mistresses. Jin Ping Mei is considered one of the greatest Chinese novels in history. 

The novel features three central female characters Pan Jinlian, Li Ping’er and Pang Chunmei. However, the opera focuses on the female protagonist Golden Lily and her relationships with three important men of her life: two brothers Wu Dalang and Wu Erlang, and rich merchant Ximen Qing. As one of the most (in) famous female characters in pre-modern Chinese literature, Golden Lily is known for her small bound feet, which represent her beauty and sexual prowess. Her name Jinlian, which literally means “golden lily/lilies,” is a euphemism for women’s bound feet in Ming-Qing China. As a young girl, Lily is forced to marry Wu Dalang, an ugly, inept pancake hawker. Unhappy with her marriage, Lily tries to seduce Dalang’s handsome brother Wu Erlang, a tiger-slaying hero, but fails. She becomes the mistress of Ximen Qing, a rich, powerful merchant who already has a wife and several concubines. When Dalang discovers the affair, Lily murders him with the help of Ximen and Dalang’s neighbor Granny Wang. She then becomes Ximen’s concubine. Ximen later dies when in flagrante with Lily. Blaming Lily for Ximen’s death, Lady Moon sends Lily back to Dalang’s house, knowing that Erlang, who just came back from his exile, will find her there and kill her. Eventually Wu Erlang avenges his brother’s death by killing Lily.

This project is partially supported by the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Opera America’s Discovery Grant, USC’s Provost Grant, the Académie du Festival d'Aix (France), Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency (Italy) and the Hermitage Artist Retreat Residency.