Idees, Pensee, Muses sur la musique & theatre

Tag Archives: Opera

Asia Society has invited the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe for two performances of “The Lanke Mountain”. This piece is not performed often. All the more reason to see it! The story follows the heroine, Cui, who divorces her husband and then attempts to reunite with him when he becomes financially successful. What a revolutionary-minded gal!

Kunqu was developed during the late Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), and is said to have evolved from theatrical forms that go back to the third century B.C. Kunqu’s emergence ushered in a golden age of Chinese drama in which it dominated Chinese theatre from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

Kunqu is known for its elegant performing style. In Kunqu, music, dance and acting are all integrated into a seamless and fluid performance. Most of the popular pieces in the Kungqu repertory are love stories. But The Lanke Mountain is a “moral tale featuring slapstick comedy,” which adds another incentive to see it.


Frank Cadenhead reported in Opera Today that Chinese conductor and pianist Xu Zhong will be the new artistic director of an Italian opera house, the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania.

He succeeds maestro Will Humburg who resigned in December. “I am greatly honored by this appointment, because this is the first time a Chinese conductor has come to Italy to direct a theater with a great tradition such as the Massimo Bellini,” Zhong declared.

Xu Zhong was the founder and director of the International Piano Competition of Shanghai and artistic director of the Shanghai Philharmonic. He is also principal guest conductor of the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul, South Korea.

As far as I know, Zhong is the second Chinese conductor to helm a high-profile Italian music institution. Xian Zhang, who was the Associate Conductor of the New York Philharmonic for much of the later part of the 2000s,  has been serving as the Music Director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since 2009. She was the first woman to be named music director of an Italian symphony orchestra.

CrossCURRENT, a concert interfacing new American music and traditional arias, will be performed by Underworld Productions Opera on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 7:30 at the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua, 154 Sullivan Street in the SoHo section of New York City.  The music of Justine F. Chen, UPO’s 2011-2012 Composer in Residence, will be featured. Following the CrossCURRENT concert, Ms. Chen will engage in Q&A and discussion with the audience; Suzanne Martinucci will moderate.

The CrossCurrent concert will feature selections from Chen’s opera Jeanne based on the life of Joan of Arc; New York Scenes; and her short opera with text by Ken Gass, Voice for a Future Nightingale. Additional selections by living American composers on the program include The Well-Tempered Woman by Stefania de Kenessey – cabaret songs written in each of the 12 keys; Ben Yarmonlinsky’s songs on poetry by Samuel Menashe; and works for soprano and clarinet by Henry Papale. Traditional operatic arias will provide a foil for these works. The works will be performed by UPO Resident Artists and guest singers including Nils Neubert, tenor and Barry Robinson, baritone, with Elizabeth Rodgers, piano and Kostja Kostic, clarinet.

There will be two Chinese performances in this year’s Lincoln Center Festival: The TAO Dance Theater on July 25 and 27; A chamber opera by Chinese composer Guo Wenjing called Feng Yi Ting on July 26, 27, 28. The later is billed as a multimedia presentation directed by film director Atom Egoyan.

I always have ambiguous feelings about LCF. They always have interesting programs that you are not likely to see anywhere else in New York. But the whole Festival is permeated with a feeling of luxury that is off-putting to people who do not have summer houses in the Hamptons. Although their tickets seem to sell out very quickly. So maybe that is just me.

Here is from the official press release:

Beijing’s TAO Dance Theater’s choreographer Tao Ye is regarded as the most exciting name in modern dance in China. Founded in 2008 by Ye and dancer Wang Hao, a specialist in Mongolian folk dance, TAO Dance Theater has grown to become China’s most highly sought-after modern dance company. The company will present two works at the Festival. The first, 2, is a duet developed from the rhythms of the spoken word; the performers recorded their own conversations during rehearsal and daily life to develop the accompanying soundscape. The resulting performance is both hypnotic and thought-provoking, as virtuosic patterns emerge from minimalistic movements to represent two souls in conversation. The second work, 4, is the company’s newest creation, a high-impact and intensely physical piece for four women seen here in its North American premiere.

TAO Dance Theater aims to challenge all previous conceptions of modern dance. Ye and Hao focus all their time and energy on their craft, exploring form as content, investigating musical and physical interaction, and experimenting with minimalism as well as layered patterns of gesture and spacial locomotion. They eschew the representational modes often seen in modern dance throughout China. Having collaborated with leading artists across genres, the Company has toured extensively in Europe and been featured in festivals worldwide, and includes dancer/choreographer Duan Ni, who returned to China in 2008 to work exclusively with Ye and Hao.

Chinese composer Guo Wenjing, whose opera Ye Yan/The Night Banquet had its U.S.premiere at Lincoln Center Festival 2002, returns to the Festival with the New York premiere of a new production of his 2004 chamber opera, Feng Yi Ting (“The Phoenix Pavilion”). This new work is based on a scene from a very popular Chinese tale about a woman who is so beautiful she can save an empire by causing two rival warlords to fall in love with her. It is set during the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (25 – 220 AD).

Guo Wenjing, Chair and professor of the Composition Department at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, has composed numerous works which have been performed around the globe. His music, known for its dramatic, majestic, and dreamlike lyricism, blends the musical heritage of China with stylistic elements of the late 20th century avant-garde. His music was first heard in the West in 1983.

The composer describes the opera as an unusual one for him. Embedded within his original work are traditional opera arias sung by a Sichuan opera soprano and Beijing opera countertenor. Ken Lam, winner of the 2011 Memphis International Conducting Competition and Orchestra Director at Montclair State University, will lead Ensemble ACJW—a collective of outstanding young professional musicians from Carnegie Hall and Juilliard’s The Academy —and a chamber ensemble consisting of four musicians on traditional Chinese instruments (pipa, dizi, erhu and sheng) in the performance. The U.S.premiere of Feng Yi Ting will take place at Spoleto Festival USA in May.

Film director Atom Egoyan will direct this multimedia production. The creative team includes costumes by Chinese fashion and costume designer Han Feng, most recently known for her spectacular designs for Anthony Minghella’s production of Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008 and subsequently the opera version of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Video in this production is by Hong Kong-based visual artist Tsang Kin-wah, with sets by Tony Award-winner Derek McLane.

I think Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera is more a performance art than a music piece. The staging is interesting. The sound, produced by stone, water and metal, among other real instruments, is, if not particularly pretty, at least never dull. you can judge for yourself. The Melody for Dialogue Among Civilizations Association will present it on March 22 (on the occasion of World Water Day ) at Merkin Concert Hall. Soloists include Guo Gan on the erhu, and Liu Fang on the pipa.

This season’s L’Elisir d’Amore at the Metropolitan Opera did not get much publicity. But opera fans know it should be good. That’s why the house was pretty packed the night I attended. I (and, judging from the applause, most of the audience) was not disappointed. Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau were both making house debut in these roles. Florez as the cute but intellectually challenged Nemorino, and Damrau as the sassy but golden-hearted Adina. All I can say is: What took them so long to sing these roles at the Met! They were funny, charming, athletic. And they both can sing notes so high that glasses shatter!