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“Thrashing dragon robe” is the final episode of the Beijing opera classic “Exchanging Civet Cat for a Prince” which is widely adapted in numerous regional operas. In this opera, Justice Bao uses the pretext of inviting the Emperor to watch an opera performance in order to expose an evil politician and his accomplice, eunuch Guo Huai. The politician had replaced Queen Li’s newborn prince with a civet cat and accused the queen of giving birth to the cat. Queen Li, the current Emperor’s birth mother escaped persecution with the help of a righteous court officer and was on the run for years until she met Justice Bao. When the Emperor learns of the truth, he executes the cunning eunuch Guo Huai. The Emperor gives Justice Bao a Golden Rod, and begs to be beaten for failing to uncover the crime of the gang who nearly killed the Queen. Justice Bao uses this Golden Rod to thrash the Dragon Robe, a symbolic act of punishing the Emperor. This is a perfect opera for the lao dan actress and the painted face to showcase their acting and singing. In the performance at an ancient open-air stage in May 2002 in Suzhou, China, Phan demonstrated her versatility in the demanding role of a dignified Queen who had gone through a traumatic journey in life. In her aria, Phan displayed with clarity the complex emotions of a mother who is reunited with her long lost son.
This digital copy (c) National Library Board Singapore 2008. The original work (c) Chinese Opera Institute, 2002.