This year marks the 60th anniversary of the beloved Chinese concerto Butterfly Lovers, a composition inspired by the Yue Opera Liang Zhu, often thought of as China’s Romeo and Juliet story, where the world also conspires to separate a couple, with tragic results.
Despite the bittersweet nature of the opera, the concerto Butterfly Lovers soars with such a grandiose, joyful melody that I embraced it after coming to live China – so much so that I later set it as the ringtone on my mobile phone.
The story, which has its roots in Zhejiang province, resonated even more with me when I resided in its capital city of Hangzhou and found myself falling in love with one of its citizens – Jun, the man who would become my future husband.
Guess how I knew he had a thing for me? One day I happened to stroll into his side of the office, and discovered that he happened to set the very same ringtone – Butterfly Lovers – on his own mobile phone. This subtle flirtation, along with so many other sweet gestures from Jun, helped him flutter straight into my own heart. We kept the ringtones unchanged on our mobile phones for a very, very long time too.
In a way, it’s funny that we both saw the Butterfly Lovers as a kind of reflection of a relationship, given the fact that things don’t entirely end well for the couple. Still, what inspired us with the undying devotion the two had for one another – so powerful that the two transformed into butterflies, which allowed them to spend the rest of their days together. There’s something beautiful about a love that transcends even a human existence.
And it’s even more beautiful when you can share that with the person you care most for in the world, in a gorgeous melody.
Have you ever heard the Butterfly Lovers before? Do you consider it a romantic composition?