Dream of the Red Chamber is the pinnacle of Chinese literature. But in fact, not many people in the western world have ever heard of it. In a certain sense, this opera is following a grand opera tradition, which began with Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Turandot, by blending eastern and western cultures. Before the English opera Dream of the Red Chamber, when people talk about Chinese-themed opera, they always first think about Turandot and the music Jasmine in that opera. Of course, the DaGuanYuan (Grand View Garden) in the English opera Dream of the Red Chamber is very different from the imagined Oriental world in Puccini's operas.
"In the 19th century of the western world, artists put the Oriental elements from their imagination into their works that were dominated by western values," says the playwright, David Henry Hwang. "But in our work, at least, we treat Chinese and western culture equally. Our work is not a hodgepodge, but a music work with distinctive features."
In the past 30 years, at least two TV shows have been adapted from Dream of the Red Chamber. "The popularity of the 1987 version of Dream of the Red Chamber in China is like BBC’s 1996 version of Pride and Prejudice (in the western world). It's certainly not a bad thing to have people re-discuss the novel because of an opera, in that way many people who have never heard of it now know it.” Hwang said, "It is important to let the world hear the aria of Baoyu."
Read more at Guang Ming Daily.