It’s general-versus-general in this classic episode from the Three Kingdoms Saga. The crafty military strategist Zhuge Liang has led an expedition in the northern kingdom of the Wei. Cao Rui, the king of Wei, has sent a pair of fearsome generals, Zhang He and Sima Yi, to drive him back. Against his better judgement, Zhuge Liang lets Ma Su, the boastful blowhard, take on the defense of the crucial town of Jieting. Ma Su ignores Zhuge Liang’s battle plan and uses one of his own devising. Ma Su bungles everything – he loses Jieting and his troops scatter in disarray.
Zhuge Liang has holed up with his trusty general, Zhao Yun (Zhao Zilong) and a much smaller group of soldiers at Xicheng. Sima Yi hears that Xicheng is practically unguarded. Will Sima Yi and his enormous army capture Zhuge Liang, take Xicheng, and put an end to the military aspirations of the kingdom of Shu?
“The Empty City Stratagem” is a the central act of the three-act opera “Shi-Kong-Zhan” (失空斩), which takes its name from the titles of each of its acts: “Losing Jieting” （Shī Jiētíng，失街亭), “The Empty City Stratagem” (Kōng Chéng Jì, 空城计), and “Executing Ma Su”, (Zhǎn Mǎ Sù, 斩马谡).
Yu Kuizhi (于魁智) plays Zhuge Liang. Mr. Yu is one of the leading performers of old-man (laosheng) roles in Beijing opera today. He is the Vice-President of the National Beijing Opera Theater as well as its Artistic Director.