East Meets West in An English Retelling of ‘The Legend of the White Snake’

Why We Recommend it

The opera Madame White Snake tells the story of a demon’s incessant pursuit of love against all odds, her whole-hearted sacrifice and inevitable revenge.


One of China’s Four Great Folktales, The Legend of the White Snake has been adapted into countless operas, films and television dramas. Madame White Snake, which will be staged at the 47 edition of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, is one of these retellings.

After 1,000 years of meditation, Madame White Snake awakens to find herself transformed. Having surrendered her snake demon-immortality to take on a human form, Madame White realises her wish to meet her lover from a prior life, the herbalist Xu Xian. After marrying him and becoming pregnant, a watchful Abbot becomes fearful of a child begot by a demon and a mortal and reveals Madame White’s secret past, only for Xu’s subsequent betrayal to cause a series of irreversible tragedies.

Zhou Long, the composer of the modern adaptation, chose to blend a Western orchestra with traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the two-stringed erhu, bamboo flute and xun ocarina. Zhou’s score for Madame White Snake saw him become the first Chinese laureate in the Prize’s long history.

Beijing opera inflections are incorporated into the singers’ vocal lines alongside lyrical passages. The music is accompanied by imaginative set designs which feature projections depicting landscapes, seasons, and figures such as a slithering white snake.

Madame White Snake will be performed in English and supplemented with both English and Chinese subtitles.

The show is companioned by an English talk featuring its creative team on 4 March 2019.



When: 8 Mar 2019 - 9 Mar 2019 Where: Lyric Theatre, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts – 1 Gloucester Road – Wan Chai