Project Description

Set in the last days of the Ming dynasty, when the rebel armies of Li Zi Cheng began entering Beijing in the spring of 1644, Emperor Chong Zhen ordered his Empresses and consorts to commit suicide rather than be captured and humiliated by the rebel troops. The emperor attempted to stab Princess Chang Ping but only managed to injure her arm. After she fainted from her injury, Emperor Chong Zhen hanged himself at the Coal Hill (Prospect Hill) behind the Forbidden City. Princess Chang Ping was saved by a Ming minister who attempted to present her to the Manchu emperor who had ousted Li Zi Cheng and established the Qing Dynasty in China.

The princess escaped and hid in a nunnery and was later reunited with her prince consort, Zhou Shi Xian, The couple came up with a plan to offer themselves as hostages to the Qing court under the conditions that the Qing court arrange a proper funeral for the deceased Emperor Chong Zhen and release the former Ming Crown Prince, half brother of Princess Chang Ping.
To the Qing emperor, it was a great political publicity. To hold a wedding for the Ming princess and to adopt her as a foster daughter (in reality as a hostage), the Qing court was able to show that the former imperial family had submitted to and accepted Qing rule in China.

After the Qing Emperor fulfilled his promises, Princess Chang Ping and Prince Consort Zhou Shi Xian were married in the palace. On the wedding night, they committed suicide by toasting each other poisoned nuptial wine. This scene is performed in the last section of the opera and is considered one the most important highlights of the opera.

崇禎末年,崇禎帝由於疼愛長女長平公主,屢次委任禮部選婿,俱為長平所拒絕。這晚在昭仁公主的陪同下,在乾清宮前連理樹下選駙馬,接見了由周鍾引薦的太僕之子周世顯,折服於他才勇雙全,二人在含樟樹下題詩以表心跡及訂下百年之約。

崇禎皇帝聽聞周世顯中選省屏後,召他上殿面聖,得知他習文,雖然深為亂世文章難保江山而惋惜,但仍立即賜予駙馬銜。在賜封之中,突然戰鼓大作,當時闖軍李自成成功攻入北京宮殿,明朝朝廷危在旦夕;崇禎見大勢已去,賜周后及袁妃三尺紅羅之後,不顧周世顯的哀求,命令長平上殿殉國。骨肉之情難分難離;倉促之間,崇禎誤殺昭仁公主,而長平公主則中劍倒地,被周鍾發現,未死,因而把她抱回家中去了。而崇禎本人在手刃眾皇女後,自縊於煤山。

改朝換代之後,長平公主就在周鍾的家中匿藏及養傷,得到周鍾女兒瑞蘭的悉心照顧,然而周鍾的兒子寶倫是一個名利之人,打算出賣長平公主以求榮祿。長平公主在得知學的陰謀之後萬念俱灰,但幸好得到瑞蘭移花接木,命維摩庵住持以意外身亡的道姑慧清和長平公主交換身份,長平公主因而可以逃離險境。周鍾和寶倫以為長平公主已經去世,但適逢周世顯尋至周府乞求長平公主的屍首,因而飽受周氏父子的奚落;而瑞蘭則藉故避居於紫玉山房照應長平公主。

化身慧清的長平公主上山拾柴時,在庵外巧遇周世顯,而周世顯雖然百試是否長平公主本人,但她一一不肯相認。在庵中觀音像之下,周世顯繼續盡力逼問,長平公主不堪他苦心一片,終於向他表露身份。二人相約當晚於紫玉山房重聚,誰不知二人的行蹤被周鍾的手下識破了,並呈報了周鍾知道。周鍾得知之後,立即趕到維摩庵,要求周世顯接長平公主回到皇宮中面聖。

瑞蘭在紫玉山房點上龍鳳燭,以示慶賀周世顯及長平公主重聚之喜。周世顯攜同周鍾父子及清室的宮女到紫玉山房以作準備迎接公主。長平公主在接見周世顯時,以為他也是賣國求榮,因而大受刺激,拈銀簪威脅刺目。在經過周世顯的解釋後,長平公主知道及明白他深思過,並以公主回朝作為厚葬崇禎及救出太子作交換條件;長平公主隨即寫表,二人並誓言在成事之後就會共赴黃泉。

周世顯面見清帝時,為公主回朝展開談判,而清帝為求安撫前朝(明朝)人心,於是一一答應,包括安葬前朝先帝及前朝太子等等要求。清帝答應要求後,長平公主上殿面見清帝,表示接納及感謝清帝的安排,與周世顯完婚。在洞房花燭之夜,長平公主和周世顯在當初選婿及定情時的含樟樹下完婚,其後二人仰毒,雙雙自殺殉國。