This chapter begins with the narrowest focus, opera as performance, then to the discourses surrounding opera, and finally to the social role of opera in the Qing metropolis, in each case evaluating the various manifestations of gender and class inversions and the extent to which they constituted a threat to the existing social order. The disruption of gender and class order is of fundamental concern to many of the dramas played out on the urban commercial stage. The flower registers show that the disaffected literati who patronized the theater did identify to a certain extent with the actors about whom they wrote. It is noted that the court had largely won the battle over moral values within the commercial playhouses. The playhouse became less central as a site for public discourse within the urban setting.
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