12 – 15 Oct 2022

Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

Wild Rice and Victorian Opera proudly present The Butterfly Lovers like you have never seen it before. Fresh from its critically acclaimed world premiere in Australia, this thrilling international collaboration marks the first time this classic Chinese folktale takes flight as an original English-language opera.

Trapped by the constraints of a rigidly patriarchal society, Zhu Yingtai boldly disguises herself as a man to pursue higher education. At school, she meets the bookish Liang Shanbo, and the proverbial sparks fly. What begins as a friendship between equals soon deepens into love between soulmates. But tragedy beckons when Yingtai is called home to be married to a wealthy suitor.

Inspiring and bittersweet in equal measure, the star-crossed love between Yingtai and Shanbo transcends barriers like family, societal expectations, and – in this new incarnation – gender and sexuality.

Conceived and directed with visionary flair by Ivan Heng, The Butterfly Lovers features a sensational new score by Richard Mills, one of Australia’s most distinguished composers, and a soul-stirring libretto by Joel Tan, one of Singapore’s most exciting young playwrights. Created in collaboration with a team of Singapore’s top theatre-makers and an international cast led by soprano Cathy-Di Zhang, countertenor Austin Haynes and baritone Haotian Qi, The Butterfly Lovers reaches across borders and cultures to bring this epic love story to exhilarating new heights.


Wild Rice and Victorian Opera’s groundbreaking new production of The Butterfly Lovers made its world premiere at the Arts Centre in Melbourne, Australia, in October 2022. The core creative team and lead cast members will reunite in Singapore for the production’s Asian premiere at the Victoria Theatre in May 2023. Our orchestra in Singapore will feature some of the country’s finest musicians from Resound Collective.

Duration: approximately 1 hour 20 minutes (without intermission)
Sung in English

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Cathy-Di Zhang as Zhu Yingtai
Meili Li as Liang Shanbo
Haotian Qi as Zhu/Master


Kate Amos
Elizabeth Barrow
Michael Dimovski
Shakira Dugan
James Emerson
Stephen Marsh
Shanul Sharma
Syrah Torii


Violin I Nicholas Waters
Violin II Michael Loftus-Hills
Viola Ruby Shirres
Cello Mee Na Lojewski
Double Bass Robert Nicholls
Clarinet I Andrew Fong
Clarinet II Cameron Smith
Harp Julie Raines
Percussion Peter Neville
Keyboard/Celeste Phoebe Briggs
Piano/Celeste Su Choung
Pipa (Chinese Lute) Lu Liu
Dizi (Chinese Flutes) Qui Ming Dong

Director & Set Designer Ivan Heng
Composer Richard Mills
Librettist Joel Tan
Multimedia & Set Designer Brian Gothong Tan
Costume Designer Max Tan
Lighting Designer Philip Lethlean
Sound Designer Jim Atkins
Répétiteurs Phoebe Briggs & Su Choung