Dream of the Red Chamber

One of China’s greatest classical novels—as famous in China as Romeo and Juliet is in the West—recounts the love triangle between a young nobleman and two very different women: one his spiritual soulmate, the other a beautiful heiress.

Music by Bright Sheng | Libretto by David Henry Hwang and Bright Sheng
Based on the book by Cao Xueqin
Commissioned by San Francisco Opera

Sung in English with English and Chinese supertitles


Visually opulent, superbly sung and expertly conducted!

San Francisco Chronicle

Bright Sheng has a terrific feel for orchestration. He uses brass, winds and percussion (Western and Chinese) in original and highly imaginative ways. Pitches bend in ways that sound almost acrobatically impossible. Chinese folk tunes get transformed into rapturously expressive new music, gorgeously colored.

LA Times

Metaphorically lush moving sets and color-coded, intricately beautiful costumes provided brilliant visual elements.

San Francisco Examiner

Yijie Shi, sang Bao Yu’s high, arching lines with expressive clarity.

San Francisco Chronicle

Pureum Jo was magnetic as the ethereal Dai Yu.

The Mercury News

For this terrific cast, the Opera has provided a suitably first-rate visual production, thoughtfully staged by director Stan Lai.

San Francisco Chronicle

A magnificent production!

San Francisco Chronicle

[Yijie Shi's] warm tenor gave Bao Yu a youthful, vigorous edge.

The Mercury News

A performance of tireless, crystalline grace.

San Francisco Chronicle

Read More


Despite his love for Dai Yu, Bao Yu is destined to marry another cousin, an attractive heiress, who might reverse the family’s declining fortunes.

Read Complete Synopsis ›

Cast & Creative

Dai Yu Pureum Jo*
Bao Yu Yijie Shi*
Lady Wang Hyona Kim*
Bao Chai Irene Roberts
Granny Jia Qiulin Zhang*
Princess Jia Karen Chia-ling Ho*
Aunt Xue Yanyu Guo
The Monk/Dreamer Randall Nakano*
Lady-in-Waiting/Flower Toni Marie Palmertree
Lady-in-Waiting/Flower Amina Edris
Lady-in-Waiting/Flower Zanda Švēde
Eunuch/Stone Pene Pati
Eunuch/Stone Alex Boyer
Eunuch/Stone Edward Nelson


September 10, 13, 18, 23, 27, and 29, 2016

Composer and Co-librettist Bright Sheng*
Co-librettist David Henry Hwang*
Conductor George Manahan
Director Stan Lai*
Production Designer Tim Yip*
Lighting Designer Gary Marder
Choreographer Fang-Yi Sheu*
Chorus Director Ian Robertson
Fight Director Dave Maier

* San Francisco Opera Debut

World premiere production. A co-production with the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Get in the Know

Immerse yourself in San Francisco Opera's world premiere. Lectures, Insight Panels and many more events offer a glimpse into how this classic novel became an opera.




An all-star creative team transports an epic Chinese novel to the operatic stage. Writer Ken Smith interviews composer Bright Sheng, co-librettist David Henry Hwang, and director Stan Lai.

"Red Chamber" Reflections

From the very beginning, Dream of the Red Chamber was a novel that asked to be tampered with.

Delving Deeper into "Dream of the Red Chamber"

An illustrative guide provides some cultural context to this quintessential Chinese story.

You May Also Enjoy

The Makropulos Case

October 14–29, 2016


November 5–December 6, 2016

La Bohème

June 10–July 2, 2017

Made Possible By

This production is made possible, in part, by: John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn; the Edmund W. and Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Fund; United Airlines; grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; and funding from OPERA America's Opera Fund.

The commission of Dream of the Red Chamber was initiated and funded by the Chinese Heritage Foundation Friends of Minnesota, with leadership support from the Dr. M. F. Tchou Memorial Fund of the Chinese Heritage Foundation; Benjamin Y. H. and Helen C. Liu; and Ruth Stricker and the late Bruce Dayton.



Support Your Opera

Make a gift to support San Francisco Opera and enjoy exclusive benefits while helping bring thrilling productions to life on the War Memorial Opera House stage. Learn More.


Photo (top): San Francisco Opera/Cory Weaver