Subscribe to the Laughing Squid email list and receive a daily email with all of the blog posts published each day. The cosmopolitan Chinese-born composer Huang Ruo found an ideally operatic subject in Sun Yat-sen.
Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) is best known as "The Father of Modern China," a sober designation conveying neither the operatic flavor nor the geographic scope of his life.
The librettist is Candace Mui-ngam Chong, a Hong Kong playwright known here for her collaboration with David Henry Hwang (author of M.
Treatments of Sun's life are usually epic, reverential and triumphalist; there are elements of this in some of the choral writing in Dr. Huang Ruo's two highest-profile precursors were Tan Dun, best known for his Oscar-winning score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and his Beijing Olympics ceremonies music, and Bright Sheng, whose work was also used in those ceremonies. Speculation about the reasons for the last-minute censorship ranged from the opera's emphasis on Sun Yat-sen's personal life and the insufficiently rousing nature of the music to party infighting that had nothing to do with the opera itself. MacKay first became interested in the work when he read an enthusiastic review of the premiere performance in Opera by its editor, John Allison, an old friend; he remembered having seen the New York Times coverage of the ban on the planned Beijing production. Features Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Opera News with seminal articles and excerpts from our archives that have never before appeared on our website.  Sound Bites Soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra returns to the Verdi repertoire this month, when she sings her first performance of the Requiem with the National Chorale at David Geffen Hall.
It features Daniel Dunlow as the voice of Gollum with drawing by Jennifer Sterling Bragg of Frederator Studios. LINDSLEY MIYOSHI explores the gestation of the work, which has its premiere this month in Santa Fe.
Composer Huang Ruo was born in China, in 1976; the Cultural Revolution ended, releasing music from a ten-year stranglehold.


Sun Yat-sen was commissioned by Warren Mok, director of Opera Hong Kong, who sang the title role there at the world premiere in October and will reprise it in Santa Fe. It might have been due to tensions in Sino-Japanese relations; in Act II, a Japanese character helps and harbors Dr.
Bound, for Houston Grand Opera, concerns a Vietnamese immigrant high-school student who was jailed for truancy when the multiple jobs she did to support her family impeded her attendance at school.
On the Beat Sarasota Sempreverdi: Todd Thomas wraps up Sarasota Opera’s monumental Verdi cycle with La Battaglia di Legnano. Eclectically influenced — by "classical, avant-garde, world music (from ancient to present), rock and jazz, noise, etc.," he says — and working in widely ranging genres, he keeps garnering awards, grants, commissions and critics' praise. She is exactly Huang Ruo's age, and he calls her "an equal partner and equal creator," adding, "We hit it off right away, and we share many similar visions." The libretto, which incorporates some quotations from Sun Yat-sen's speeches, was shaped in close Skype collaboration and is almost all in Mandarin. Also notable is Chen Kaige, whose 1993 art-house hit movie Farewell, My Concubine accustomed international audiences to Peking Opera, helping to pave the way for composers who combined that ancient genre with Western styles. The world premiere had originally been scheduled for Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts in September 2011, the centenary of Sun's revolution; another run was planned in Guangzhou. The Santa Fe performance will actually be a world premiere, of a newly revised version incorporating both Western and Chinese instruments. For Washington National Opera, the composer is collaborating with David Henry Hwang on An American Soldier, a chamber opera about Private Danny Chen, a Chinese–American soldier sent to Afghanistan and driven to suicide by the bullying of his superiors. His music is unanimously characterized as fresh and distinctive; the vocal writing, marked by unusual Chinese-influenced ornamentation, is exceptionally singable for contemporary work, perhaps because he sings as he writes it.
Not only the Chinese singers but the Western ones in the mixed cast will be singing in that language.


Sun Yat-sen (tenor) falls in love with Ching-ling (lyric soprano), the daughter of his best friend and political supporter, Charlie Soong (bass-baritone) — a character who deserves an opera of his own. But all sources interviewed here agree that Huang Ruo's work defies such obvious comparisons.
With the libretto approved, the composer had no reason to anticipate trouble, but in August, a party official announced that the premiere was "postponed indefinitely." Guangzhou canceled its commitment, too. A composer since early childhood, Huang Ruo entered Shanghai Conservatory at the age of twelve after studying with his father, Huang Ying-sen, a composer for film and television. MacKay calls it "a kind of Chinese bel canto" and identifies the folk music of Hainan Island, in the south of China, where the composer grew up, as an important influence.
Leaving China in 1995, Huang Ruo won the Henry Mancini Prize in Switzerland, studied at Oberlin, earned his doctorate at Juilliard, then joined its faculty.
Santa Fe will use supertitles, but Huang Ruo reports that New York audiences shown excerpts from an earlier version performed without them last year in two very different venues — the staid uptown Asia Society and the cutting-edge downtown club Poisson Rouge, cultures harder to bridge than America's and China's — were "equally enthusiastic," as YouTube clips attest. China, and the world's attitude to its music, evolved considerably during those decades — and has continued to do so since.



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