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Paradise Interrupted

Kunqu actress Qian Yi on her latest show and her journey to the US

By Xie Yi Updated May.15

Qian Yi has studied classical Chinese opera (kunqu) at the Shanghai Opera School from the age of 10. In 1998, aged 23, she was invited to perform the lead role in Peony Pavilion at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Qian was thrilled by the prospect of performing the traditional Chinese opera to an international audience and experiencing a life she had never had before. She left for New York without getting permission from her then work unit, the Shanghai Kunju Opera Troupe. This caused a stir in the Chinese kunqu circle and since then, Qian Yi has never performed in China again.

In the interview, Qian Yi talks about the effect this momentous decision had on her life, how she uses her experiences in her latest show, Paradise Interrupted, and how the story of the show echoes her personal journey to the US.