Born in Shanghai, he began his vocal studies in his native town and graduated with top score at the Toho College of Music in Tokyo (Japan). After having won a fellowship offered by Toho Postgraduate School of Music, he came to Europe to continue his studies, in Graz. Since 2011 he has been teaching singing at Hunan Normal University in China.
A winner of several international vocal competitions, including the International Singing Competition “Ferruccio Tagliavini” in Graz, the International Competition for Singers “Toti dal Monte” in Treviso in 2007, the “International Singing Competition of “Festspielstadt Passau ” in Passau, also in 2007 and the International Singing Competition “Maria Caniglia” in Sulmona.
After having been the revelation of the Rossini Opera Festival 2008, singing as Cavalier Belfiore in Il viaggio a Reims in the “Accademia Rossiniana” production, he was immediately invited back to Pesaro to sing the title role in Le Comte Ory at the Rossini Opera Festival 2009, where he has had a great success imposing himself on the international scene.
Despite his relative youth Yijie Shi has already had tremendous success singing at internationally renowned venues such as Metropolitan Opera of New York, San Francisco Opera, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia di Roma, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino di Firenze, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Deutsche Oper of Berlin, Opéra National de Lorraine, Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, Opéra de Lausanne, Avenches Opera Festival, Graz Oper, Copenhagen Tivoli Festival, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Festival Mozart de La Coruña, Teatro Arriaga de Bilbao, Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile and De Vlaamse Opera of Antwerp, working with such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano, Roberto Abbado, Kent Nagano, Alberto Zedda, Bruno Bartoletti, Jeffrey Tate, Louis Langrée and Dan Ettinger.
Lu YUAN, tenor singer studied abroad in Italy as senior visiting scholar, associate professor for the voice & opera department of Tianjin Conservatory of Music, and CCTV China “New Top Ten Tenor Singer”:
Graduated from the music education department of Tianjin Conservatory of Music after undergraduate course under the tutelage of professors Hong-mei LI and Yun-xian CHEN in piano, and professor Xiu-qi LI in vocal music in 2005. Graduated from the voice & opera department of Tianjin Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of professor Ji-gang DU, and won a master degree under the professors Qi-hui WU and Yu-qiang DAI’s meticulous guidances in 2008.
Became the master Mirella Freni’s first disciple from China by the global audition in 2010, learnt three years from the master Mirella Freni into the Italian Modena Opera Research and Study Academy, while learnt the stage performance from the world-class famous comedy bassist Enzo Dara after approved by the special talent training program for arts of China Scholarship Council (CSC), and graduated with excellent academic performance in 2014, especially graduated from the Italian Pesaro Rossini Opera House Research Institute under the tutelage of famous Rossini opera conductor master Alberto Zedda in 2011.
Won the silver medalist and best tenor award of Italian Benvenuto Fraci International Vocal Music Competition, the fourth and Cusani award of Milan Magda Olivero International Vocal Music Competition, and the third of Italian Casselta International Vocal Music Competition and and other awards.
Acted the leading roles of “Cinderella”, “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, “La Fille du Regiment”, “Tour de Lance”, “L’Italiana in Algeri”, “Messiah”, “Stabat Mater”, “Petite Messe Solennelle”, “Carmina Burana”, “Die ZauberFlöte”, “Gianni Schicchi”, “L’elisir d’amore”, “Robert le Diable”, “Don Pasquale”, “Le Comte Ory”, “Broken Universes in Santo Domingo”, “Pagliacci”, “Yongle Encyclopedia”, “Fei YUE”, “Gale Song”, “Regret for the Past” and so on more than twenty operas and oratorios in the New York Metropolitan Opera, National Center for the Performing Arts, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Shanghai Grand Theater, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro di Ravenna, Teatro di Modena, Pesaro Rossini Opera House, Teatro di Ferrara, Bergamo Donizetti Theatre, Como Grand Theatre, Teatro Bilbao, Spain, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Korea Daegu Opera House, Tianjin Grand Theatre, Fujian Grand Theatre and opera houses at home and abroad.
Lu YUAN is the second Chinese Rossini tenor in the Italian Pesaro Rossini Opera House festival, and furthermore the first Chinese tenor in the Italian Bergamo Teatro Donizetti festival. Therefore extensive praise and unanimous consent are obtained from the audiences at home and abroad and the insiders by right of his pure, beautiful, gorgeous tone and sincere, heart-warming stage performance as a lyric tenor representative of the Chinese new generation.
Chinese soprano He Wu studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Royal College of Music International Opera School completing her training at the National Opera Studio where she was supported by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She won the Voice of China European Competition 2014, the Lies Askonas Singing Competition 2015 and was a finalist in the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016. He was a Young Artist at the International Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg Festival 2015 and Samling Scholar 2016.
He’s opera engagements include Receptionist - Tansy Davies Between Worlds for English National Opera; Diana Giove in Argo at the London Handel Festival and Königen der Nacht Die Zauberflöte, Princesse and Le Feu L’enfant et les sortilèges at the Royal College of Music.
On the concert platform she has sung Mahler Symphony No 2 with BBC Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven Symphony No 9 with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra / Philippe Jordan, Vivaldi Gloriaand Mozart Exsultate Jubilate for the Amersham Festival Chamber Orchestra; Beethoven Mass in C and Choral Fantasy at St John’s Smith Square and the UK première of Xian Xing HaiYellow River Cantata with the London Chinese Philharmonic Choir. She has given recitals in London Symphony Orchestra Schubert Series and at King’s Place. He Wu was chosen to sing before the First Lady of China, Madam Peng, on her visit to the UK in 2015. Her plans include Amor Orfeo ed Euridice for Longborough Festival Opera and the world premiere of a new opera in Hong Kong.
He has been supported in her studies by the Sybil Tutton, Josephine Baker, Siow-Furniss and Leverhulme Trusts; the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Arthur Burcher Foundation. She won First Prize in the CCTV- MTV Awards each year between 2005 and 2007.
Jingjing Li is a lyrical-coloratura soprano. She graduated with two Master’s degrees in “Opera & Operetta” and “Lied & Oratorio” from University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna. She has also trained
with great singers and musicians like: M.Freni, F. Araiza, J. Demus, H. Höll, etc. She is the first Chinese singer to have received several international prizes in different vocal fields of Opera, Operetta and Lied.
As the member of China National Opera House, she performed with CNOH and NCPA-Beijing as the main roles like: Adele in Die Fledermaus, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Marzelline in Fidelio, Helmwige in Die Walküre, Jinzi in Savage Land, Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, etc.
As an active singer and a highly acclaimed concert soloist, Li has worked with a lot of Orchestras and conductors of Asia, Europe and USA. From Opera to Operetta, Lied to Oratorio, Wiener Lieder to contemporary music, her ability has given her a wide variety in repertoire. Her interpretations have made her renowned as one of the most representative singers and opera artists of the new generation in China.
Lin Shi, mezzo soprano, born in 1989, from Shandong, China, attended the Central Conservatory for Music in Beijing from 2007 to 2008 and finished her studies at the University of music and Performance Arts in Munich Germany and at Curtis Institute of music in Phialdelphia, USA.
In 2010, she was the only vocalist, who won the Award from the German Stage Association National Association, Germany and also placed as 1st Prize in the 4th International Singing Competition Gut Immling, a finalist in the 4th Swiss International Singing Competition in Bern, Encouragement Award in The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation USA, and 2nd Prize in 8th National Vocal music competition organized by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China.
In recent years, Lin Shi has been seen as Ruggiero (Alcina) in Prinzregenten theater Munich, in the contemporary premiere of Joseph Weigl's Il Sacrifizio at the Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, Austria, as Don Ramiro (La finta giardiniera) in Aix-en-Provence, France, as well as in a concert version of Cosi fan tutte as Dorabella and the Brahms Alto Rhapsody with the Munich Symphony. Lin Shi was honored as an HSBC Laureate of the Academie Europeenne de Musique in 2012. In 2013 she debuted at the Semperoper Dresden in Manon Lescaut in the role of the Musician and took over the title role in Johannes Wulff-Woesten's Prinz Bussel under the musical direction of the composer. In 2014, she was seen as Gianetta (L'elisir d'amore) and Angelina (La cenerentola) in Opera Philadelphia as well as Charlotte (Werther) at the Chautauqua Music Festival. Lin Shi has been a member of the International Opera Studio in Zürich Opera house and was seen in productions of Die Gänsemagd, Robin Hood, Juliette, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Der Verzauberte Schwein, and in Le Comte Ory. She also performed Le nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor and Die Lustige Witwe in Opera House of National Grand Theatre China, The Rape of Lucretia in Grand theater Tianjin.
Formed in Paris at the Schola Cantorum, then at the Conservatoire de Toulouse, Qiu Lin Zhang won in 1995 Grand Prix du Concours International de Marmande and as well as winner of the Masters of Chant French in Paris in the same year.
She recently took part in a creation by Detlev Glanert « Solaris » at the Cologne Opera and a tour of the Reise opera in Holland with the role of Suzuki which she will sign also at the Avenches Festival in Switzerland, with the Lausanne Opera, followed by another creation at the San Francisco Opera: Bright Cheng’s « Dream of the red Chamber » . As well as at the Hong Kong Festial.Furthermore she will do Suzuki at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie in Brussels.
Qiu Lin Zhang sang Maddalena / Rigoletto in Rennes, Sesto / La Clemenza di Tito and Susuki / Madama Butterfly in Saint-Etienne and Marseille, Carmen at the Festival in Hong Kong with the Orchestra National de Lille, Ute in Happy Nibelungen by Oscar Straus in Caen. At the Theatre du Capitole de Toulouse Mère Jeanne / Dialogues des Carmelites, Néris / Medea by Cherubini, Third Dame / Die Zauberflöte, Erda and First Norn / Der Ring des Nibelungen, the Voice of the Mother / Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Eine Stimme von Oben / Die Frau ohne Schatten, A Thebain / Oedipus by Enesco.
She sang Rossweisse, Schwertleite / Die Walküre at the Opera in Amsterdam, Erda and First Norn in Paris' Ring of Bob Wilson at the Chatelet and then at the Sao Carlo in Lisbon. With the Orchestra of Paris, she sang Erda / Siegfried in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Madrid, The Mother / Les Contes d'Hoffmann in Massy and at the Opera Bastille Paris, Erda in the new Ring cycle at the Opera Bastille Paris and Erda /Siegfried at the Bavarian Opera Munich . Also Ulrica in Peking and La Cieca in La Gionconda in Marseille and Susuki in Holland as well as at La Monnaie Bruessels, at the Festival d ‘Avenche, in Switzerland and in Toulon. She also performed“ Dream of the Red Chamber”a creation by Bright Cheng in San Francisco and then at the Hong Kong Festival
In concert, she performed notably Das Lied von der Erde/ Mahler with the Orchestra de Paris and Christoph Eschenbach and with the Orchestre National de Lille conducted by Jean-Claude Casadesus. She sang Verdi's Requiem with the Orchestra of Besancon, Mozart's Requiem and Mendelssohn's Elias with 'Symphony Orchestra Tours, the Stabat Mater by Pergolese and Il Tramonto Respighi with the National Chamber Orchestra of Toulouse, Des Knaben Wunderhorn in Rouen, the Rhapsody for Alto Brahms with the Orchestra National de Lille and the Kindertotenlieder with the Capitole Orchestra Toulouse ,Wesendonck-lieder with Orchestra Lamoureux de Paris, Mozart’s Requiem in Marseille.
In 2016-17, Mezzo-soprano Katherine Pracht made her Kennedy Center debut as soloist in Philip Glass' Symphony No. 5 with the Washington Chorus. She also sang the US premiere of Richard Wernick's " ...and a Time for Peace " with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and created several roles in workshops of new operas: Florence Williams in Susan Kander’s The News From Poems , Hester Prynne in Eric Sawyer's The Scarlet Professor, and Eve in Julian Wachner and Cerise Jacobs’ Rev 23 for the Prototype Festival.
Ms. Pracht sang a workshop of the role of Glenda in Opera Philadelphia's world premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved by Daniel Bernard Roumain, and reprised of Philip Glass' Symphony No. 5 for Trinity Wall Street in NYC, and performed Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles accompanied by Bright Sheng and Michael Barrett for The Intimacy of Creativity 2017 Festival in Hong Kong. Upcoming performances include Arias and Barcarolles for New York Festival of Song, Sergey Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with the York Symphony, the title role in Elizabeth Cree with Chicago Opera Theater, as well as Stravinsky’s Requiem Canticles with The Orchestra NOW at Bard under the baton of Leon Botstein.
In the 2014 15season, Pracht made role debutsas Sharon FalconerinE lmerGantry withFlorentine Opera; Ariel in the World Premiere of Joseph Summer’s The Tempest for The Shakespeare Concerts in Boston; and Flora Bervoix in Opera Philadelphia’s La Traviata . She covered the role of Baroness “Nica” in Daniel Schnyder’s Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD commissioned for Opera Philadelphia; and was the Alto Soloist in Verdi's Requiem in Florence, South Carolina; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the York Symphony; and Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with Grand Rapids Symphony.
Highlights from previous seasons include Ms. Pracht’s Carnegie Hall debut as Alto Soloist in Verdi's Requiem ; Der Trommler in Der Kaiser von Atlantis for Central City Opera with the Colorado Symphony; two concerts with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus singing John Corigliano’s Fern Hill and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky ; her international/Radio France debut singing Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte with Lyrique-en-mer Festival in Belle-ile; and her Avery Fisher Hall debut in Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust with the American Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Pracht has been a Metropolitan Opera Competition Regional finalist in San Antonio, Memphis, and twice in Minneapolis, where, in 2006, she won the Outstanding Mezzo Award.
Winner of the prestigious Renee Fleming Award from the Eastman School of Music, soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho began her musical career at the age of six singing in the Taipei Hua-Hsin Children's Choir of Taiwan. The role of Princess Jia marked her San Francisco Opera debut and a role she reprised with the Hong Kong Arts Festival. During the 2016-17 season she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the American Symphony Orchestra in Ernst Krenek’s Der Diktator as Maria under the baton of Leon Botstein.
Ms. Ho is a former member of San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program where she sang the role of Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) and their Grand Finale Concert. Noted for her beautiful legato and rich color to her instrument, she was presented in concert with the American Composers Orchestra in music by the Chinese composer, Li Shaosheng in Washington D.C. and has sung operatic arias and duet in concert with the Shanghai Symphony and Shanghai Philharmonic orchestras. She was recently featured with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra in the Yellow River Cantata, Strauss’s Op. 27 and operatic arias by Verdi.
Skilled in other musical genres, her credits include the Glimmerglass Festival where she covered leading roles in a staged Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; David Lang’s the little match girl passion; and the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman singing the role of Alma Hix in The Music Man. She has since added the roles of Liù and Pamina to her repertoire.
Ms. Ho was honored as a participate in the final rounds of the Belvedere, Viñas, NeueStimmen, Marcello Giordani competitions and was a District winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
She holds music degrees from the universities of TNUA and Tung-Hai of Taiwan, an M.M. from the Eastman School of Music and an Artist Diploma from the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.
Chinese American mezzo-soprano Yanyu Guo has sung with many opera companies throughout Europe and the United States; including the San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera Paris de Bastille, Volksoper Wien, Göteborg Opera Sweden, Landestheater Salzburg, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Nationaltheater Weimar, and the Staatstheater Hannover.
She has performed with great success as Ortrud in Lohengrin, Amneris in Aida, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera, Fricka in Die Walküre and Das Rheingold, Waltraute in Götterdämmerung, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, and many more. Yanyu Guo has worked with conductors including Maurizio Arena, Bruno Campanella, Edo de Waart, Charles Mackerras, Donald Runnicles, Nello Santi; and directors John Copley, Achim Freyer, Sonja Frisell, Michael Hampe, and Lotfi Mansouri.
After graduating from the Beijing Central Conservatory, where she studied with Professor Shuzhen Guo; Yanyu Guo received her Master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music, USA with Professor Yi-Kwei Sze. She furthered her studies at the Juilliard School in New York as a member of the American Opera Center and also as an Adler fellow in the San Francisco Opera’s young artist program. Yanyu Guo is the first Chinese Opera singer to sing a major role with the San Francisco Opera.
Presently Ms. Guo resides in Germany, and has recently sung Amneris in a new production of Aida with the Braunschweig Staatstheater, and Neris in Medea with the Landestheater in Innsbruck Austria, Zia Principessa in a new Il Tritico production with the Staatstheater Darmstadt.
Ms. Guo has recently sung La Contessa di Coigny, and Madelon in Andrea Chénier in a co-production with the Royal opera house Covent Garden and San Fransicsco Opera; Filipievna in Eugene Onegin, La Cieca in La Gioconda and Ježibaba in Rusalka with the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China.
In September 2016 Ms Guo performed with the San Francisco Opera in the world premier Production “Dream of the Red Chamber”.
Pichead Amornsomboon joined HKREP as full time actor in 2014. A core member of Hong Kong’s theatre circles and an experienced actor, Pichead performs with richly expressive power. He has collaborated with many theatre companies with many awards under his belt. In addition to theatre, Pichead is active in different media, in roles including actor, playwright, director, voice actor, television host, radio host as well as acting instructor. Recent productions include Footprints in the Snow (re-run), 1894 Hong Kong Plague, Marriage, Wolf in the House, Hello, Dolly! the musical and Wait until Dark. He is also acted as playwright and director for the Blackbox production Sing your Life a Musical.
Pichead graduated from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) Degree, majoring in Acting. In 2003, he was awarded a scholarship from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council to further his studies in Paris under the tutelage of renowned acting teacher Philippe Gaulier. In 2005, he co-founded theatre group “2 On Stage”. In 2011, he founded independent theatre group “Pichead On Stage”, and starred as Mr. DIVA in MR. DIVA’S MASTERCLASS .He has also appeared in LIVE THEATRE’s Amadeus as Salieri; as well as The Only Stage’s DOGS.
Pichead won the Best Actor Award (Drama/Tragedy) at the 19th Hong Kong Drama Awards (HKDA) for his performance in Scrooge – the Musical. He also won Best Actor (Comedy/Farce) and Best Director Awards at the 15th HKDA for Two of Us, addition to winning the Best Supporting Actor (Comedy/Farce) three times at the 9th, 10th and 19th HKDA for his performances in Aladdin, Sylvia and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum respectively.
He joined the roster of China National Opera House in 2009 and performed in the roles of over 20 operas, such as Turandot, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto, Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Rawap, Tannhäuser, etc. He has collaborated with many famous orchestras in concerts and performed numerous arias and lieds. In 2012 he was invited to Turkey and performed in Madame Butterfly to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between China and Turkey. In 2012 and 2013 he was twice invited by Teatro dell'Opera di Roma to perform in Turandot and Il Trovatore.
Lin Gao enrolled in the vocal department of the Arts College of Tianjin Normal University in 2006. Since 2011 he has held a position in China National Opera House, where he took part in the performances in The While Haired Girl, The Xinhai Revolution, The Nine Stories of Yizhou, Hong Band Tailors, The Song of the Great Wind, Tannhäuser，The Magic Flute, La Traviata, Aida, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Bohème, Carmen, Das Rheingold, Ragnarök, Verdi's Messa da Requiem, etc. He also toured with China National Opera in Italy, Switzerland, and Hungary for the productions of Turandot, Il trovatore, etc.
Maomao Ji is a tenor, who joined the roster of China National Opera House in 2016.
He once performed in Madame Butterfly in China National Centre for the Performing Arts (2007), Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 ‘Auferstehung’ in Beijing Concert Hall (2008), Onegin in China National Centre for the Performing Arts (2010), etc. He once sang Libiamo ne' lieti calici from La Traviata for Plácido Domingo in 2012 and received high praises by the latter.
He also performed Mime in Das Rheingold in September 2016 and Tamino in The Magic Flute in March 2017. Both of the operas were produced by China National Opera House and staged in China National Centre for the Performing Arts.
Yu Xia is a coloratura soprano and holds a position in China National Opera House. She completed her master degree study in the University of Music Karlsruhe in 2010 with excellent academic record in vocal art, opera and lied.
She has performed in various roles, such as Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Blonde in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, Princess Ninetta in Prokofiev L'amour des trios oranges, Yniold in Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande, Olympia in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme, Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Ortlinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre and Woglinde in Wagner’s Das Rheingold.
Ye Wang is a young soprano and holds a position in China National Opera House.
She once took part in Lucia di Lammermoor and The Marriage of Figaro, and also performed in leading roles such as Norina in Don Pasquale (2012), Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte (2014), Norns in Götterdämmerung (2015), Freia in Das Rheingold (2016), etc.
She was invited for the exchange program of International Young Artists in Hong Kong in 2009, and also held concerts series at Shanghai Spring International Music Festival between 2010 and 2012. She was invited to Seoul University in Korea in 2013 for cultural exchange events and in 2014 she participated in the concerts at the Suntory Hall, the Sōgakudō Concert Hall of Tokyo University of the Arts and the Sapporo Concert Hall during her visit in Japan.
“…a tall order, but one expertly achieved by soprano Wai-yin Li. Hers is a huge voice but one which is highly adaptable and, when required, nimble.” -- Liverpool Daily Post
Working with composers is also of interest to Amanda. She premiered Chinese composer Sisi Feng’s Tao Te Ching with Ensemble 10/10, RLPO under the baton of Clark Rundell in Liverpool, UK. She also recorded To Winter, a piece written by local composer Lan-chee Lam in memory of the late Prof. Michael McClellan, for CUHK in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the university’s music department.
Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra
General Manager: Jingshan Den
Artistic Director & Principal Conductor: Yang Yang
Assistant Conductor: Yin Hong
Founded on April 20th 2009, Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO) has established itself as one of most promising and exciting symphony orchestras in China. The orchestra has ventured to perform across all disciplines of arts in concert, opera, ballet, chamber music, film music and recording to critical acclaim.
Yu Long, one of the most distinguished Chinese conductors, praised that HPO is the best stage for Hangzhou culture to the world, and as well as the exhibition platform of global cultures in Hangzhou. “Established only seven years ago in a city 180 miles from Shanghai, the HPO is by now one of the major orchestras in China”, reported by Musical America, 2016.
Under the leadership of Deng Jingshan, its President, the orchestra has engaged Yang Yang as Music Director and Chief Conductor. In April, 2015, Maestro Yu Long, the CPO Artistic Director, was appointed as the director of HPO Artistic Committee. Some of the foremost names have appeared as Artists-in-residence: violinist Ning Feng, cellist Qin Liwei, french horn player Han Xiaoming and pianist Kun-Woo Paik, Zhang Haochen and Yang Tianwa. Wang Jian is the Artist-in-residence currently.
As a city orchestra, HPO is deeply rooted in the local community and has presented a series of audience outreach events as its priority. Reasonable ticket price, complimentary program book and free educational programs have earned HPO a large following. The residency at Hangzhou Grand Theater and nearly 50 subscription concerts have won it much respect and lots of love. Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra has made great artistic achievements by establishing musical seasons. With joint efforts of all members, HPO emphasizes on professional development with Hangzhou Speed and Hangzhou Model, and has been the golden name card and icon of Hangzhou in terms of cultural construction and international exchange. HPO is on the way towards becoming “top in China and renowned worldwide”.
The Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly The Wuhan Orchestra) was founded in 1993 as a professional orchestra accredited and approved by The Wuhan Municipal People’s Government. The orchestra was formally designated in November, 2009 as the resident orchestra of the Qintai Arts Center.
The orchestra’s mission is to promote music at its highest level. In the last twenty years, the orchestra has invited excellent conductors and world class performers to its stage from both home and abroad. The orchestra performs a wide range of repertoire, spanning the gamut of Western Classical music. They also take a special interest in Chinese composers such as Xian Xinghai, Chen Gang, He Zhanhao, Ji Ping and Ye Xiaogang. Striving to popularize the symphonic musical arts in the Wuhan region, the orchestra declares as its slogan: “Let Music Be a Part of Your Life.” They dedicate a great deal of work to promote the cultural quality of the city and cultivate a community of cultured citizens. Programs such as, “Going Out” are to let symphonic music step into enterprises, military camps and surrounding communities. “Come in, Please” is a program to attract common citizens to attend concerts free of charge or with reduced ticket prices. Recently, a steadily growing collection of music lovers has been formed in the Wuhan area.
The Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra bears the important mission of promoting a culturally strong Wuhan and endeavors to win a broader audience and greater influence in the region. Their mission is to seek artistic excellence and add to the beautiful scenery of cultural life in Wuhan. They hope to make a great contribution to economic prosperity, civilization and progress for all.
The Chorus of the State Opera of Dnipro (formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk) employs a talented group of like-minded people that focus on creating outstanding artistic and holistic performance experiences for theater audiences.
The high professionalism and vocal quality of the choristers allows the ensemble to not only perform opera repertory, but to also be well vested in a lot of non-operatic repertoire. Often, choristers are cast to perform solo bit parts in operas and concerts. The Chorus of the State Opera of Dnipro sings a lot of Eastern and Western European classical literature, enjoys a cappella vocal literature, as much as large cantata-oratorio works. The Chorus of the State Opera of Dnipro is an integral part of the cultural landscape in and around Dnipro and can be heard – besides the many opera performances or the opera’s symphonic program – on many occasions in concert halls in the Ukraine and abroad. Over the years the Chorus was invited to perform in Italy, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, France, Ireland, Lebanon, China, Jordan, Israel, USA and Uruguay.
The repertoire of the choir is extensive and diverse, and includes – among other works - the following:
P. Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin, Iolanta; M. Mussorgsky Boris Godunov; G. Verdi Il Trovatore, Aida, La Traviata, Nabucco, Otello, Rigoletto; G. Bizet Carmen; G. Puccini Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Suor Angelica, La Bohème, Tosca; R. Leoncavallo Il Pagliacci; P. Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana; G. Donizetti L’Elisir d’Amore; W.A. Mozart Le nozze di Figaro; G. Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia; J. Strauss Die Fledermaus; A. Borodin Prince Igor.
Dream of the Red Chamber, commissioned by San Francisco Opera from Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng with a libretto by Sheng and playwright David Henry Hwang, will tour to the People's Republic of China in September 2017, a press conference unveiled today at the late 18th-century Prince Gong Mansion in Beijing. Co-produced by Poly Theatre Management Co., Ltd. and Armstrong International Music & Arts Enterprises, Ltd., the Dream of the Red Chamber China Tour will travel to three Chinese cities in six performances.
The tour opens with two performances at Beijing's Poly Theatre on September 8 and 9. The work will then be presented as part of the grand opening of the Meixihu International Culture and Arts Centre Grand Theatre in the southern city of Changsha on September 15 and 16. Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the Meixihu complex was among the noted British-Iraqi architect's last projects before her sudden death in March 2016. The third and final stop of the tour will be the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan on September 22 and 23.
The Dream of the Red Chamber tour performances will be conducted by Sheng, marking the composer's first time conducting his opera. In Beijing, Sheng will lead the Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra; in Changsha and Wuhan he will be joined in the pit by the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra. The Chorus of the State Opera of Dnipro, Ukraine, will sing at each performance. Dream of the Red Chamber will be presented in the original production by acclaimed Taiwanese director Stan Lai and Oscar-winning Chinese designer Tim Yip. A "first-rate visual production, thoughtfully staged" praised the San Francisco Chronicle at the opera's world premiere at the War Memorial Opera House. "One sensuous tableau flowing into the next," said the Financial Times.
San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock said: "Dream of the Red Chamber had a profound impact in connecting San Francisco Opera to its broader Bay Area community. It's thrilling, then, that this impact will continue as Dream of the Red Chamber travels to China in one of the most exciting American-Chinese cultural bridges to emerge in recent years. I couldn't be more proud that San Francisco Opera was the birthplace of a work that speaks so powerfully to such a broad audience."
Chinese tenor Yijie Shi, who created the role of Bao Yu, returns as the young nobleman at the center of the drama. Soprano He Wu portrays Dai Yu; mezzo-soprano Lin Shi is Bao Chai; mezzo-soprano Katherine Pracht sings the role of the Jia matriarch Lady Wang; contralto Qiulin Zhang is Granny Jia; soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho is Princess Jia; soprano Yanyu Guo is Aunt Xue; and Pichead Amornsomboon is the Monk. Yijie Shi, Quilin Zhang, Karen Chia-ling Ho and Yanyu Guo were all members of San Francisco Opera's world premiere cast.
Dream of the Red Chamber had its world premiere at San Francisco Opera on September 10, 2016 and played to capacity crowds at the War Memorial Opera House and at the 45th Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2017. The San Francisco Chronicle hailed the opera's "series of tautly constructed scenes that reveal the canniness of Sheng's compositional strategy-in particular, his skill in crafting an operatic language that is a hybrid of Chinese and Western traditions."
Adapted from Cao Xueqin's sprawling 18th-century novel, the opera focuses on the illustrious Jia clan and the love triangle of the Jia's young heir Bao Yu with two very different women: Dai Yu, his spiritual soulmate, and Bao Chai, a worldly beauty. When the Emperor rejects Princess Jia as his favored concubine, the Jia family's future is threatened along with the union between Bao Yu and Dai Yu. Framed by a dreamlike prologue and epilogue, Dream of the Red Chamber relates the poetry and sadness of the original Chinese tale as a lush and lyrical 21st-century opera.
The opera first took root when Pearl Bergad, Executive Director of the Minneapolis-based Chinese Heritage Foundation, approached former San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley in 2013 about producing an opera based on Dream of the Red Chamber. The operatic retelling was to have an English libretto so it would be readily accessible to non-Chinese speaking attendees and introduce new audiences to this classic of world literature. As in its earlier stagings, the tour performances of Sheng's opera will be sung in English, with surtitles in both English and Chinese.
An English opera entitled “Dream of The Red Chamber” will make its Chinese debut in September, San Francisco Opera announced on Monday.
Opera lovers in three Chinese cities, Beijing, Changsha and Wuhan, will have the chance to enjoy the opera over six separate performances.
Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng will conduct Dream of The Red Chamber during its China tour, meaning it is the first time he will have conducted his opera. Furthermore, the original production team, including playwright David Henry Hwang, Taiwanese director Stan Lai and Oscar-winning Chinese designer Tim Yip will join Sheng in presenting the creation.
Four Chinese members of San Francisco Opera’s world premiere cast, including tenor Yijie Shi, contralto Qiulin Zhang, soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho and Yanyu Guo, will continue to play their usual roles throughout.
Adapted from Chinese novelist Cao Xueqin’s classic work with the same name, the opera features the decline of an aristocratic family in imperial China and a love triangle between main characters.
Created by Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang, Dream of the Red Chamber had its world premiere at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco on September 10, 2016.
The San Francisco Examiner praised the opera as “metaphorically lush moving sets and colour-coded, intricately beautiful costumes provided brilliant visual elements” after its debut.
San Francisco Opera (SFO) will see its new production Dream of the Red Chamber go on tour to China in September, 2017. Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng created the opera, with Sheng co-writing the libretto alongside American playwright David Henry Hwang. The opera originally premiered in San Fancisco on 10 September, 2016.
Dream of the Red Chamber’s tour begins with two dates in Beijing (8-9 September), followed by two dates in Changsha (15-16 September). The trip ends in Wuhan with performances on 22-23 September.
The opera is based on Cao Xueqin’s 18th century romantic novel, which is considered a classic of Chinese literature. In it, a love triangle develops between members of two aristocratic families: the Rongguo House and the Ningguo House. As the story progresses the Rongguo House falls out of favour with the emperor, with their wealth and possessions confiscated.
SFO general director Matthew Shilvock said: “Dream of the Red Chamber had a profound impact in connecting SFO to its broader Bay Area community. It’s thrilling, then, that this impact will continue as Dream of the Red Chamber travels to China in one of the most exciting American–Chinese cultural bridges to emerge in recent years.”
Sheng will conduct during the tour – the first time he has conducted his opera. In Beijing he will lead the Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra, while in Changsha and Wuhan he conducts Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra. Four members of the original SFO world premiere cast return for the tour.
International Arts Manager
Donald Trump and the People’s Republic of China might not always be seeing eye to eye these days, but San Francisco Opera is proudly dispatching its world-premiere production of Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng’s “Dream of the Red Chamber” to three cities there for a total of six performances in September.
The opera, which played to packed houses in the War Memorial Opera House at its debut last September, will be conducted, for the first time, by the composer himself and will feature five of the singers who performed in San Francisco. Its libretto, co-written by Sheng and the celebrated American playwright David Henry Hwang, is based on a classic 18th-century novel about a royal love triangle that is widely beloved in China.
The tour, with Chinese orchestras performing, opens in Beijing at the Poly Theatre on Sept. 8 and 9. It then moves to Changsha for the opening of the Meixihu International Culture and Arts Centre Grand Theatre on Sept. 15 and 16, closing at the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan on Sept. 22 and 23. As it was in San Francisco, it will be performed in English with Chinese and English surtitles.
“Dream of the Red Chamber” was commissioned in 2013 by David Gockley, then general director of S.F. Opera, but premiered in the first-year tenure of his successor Matthew Shilvock, who has carried out the original intent of introducing wider audiences to a classic work of world literature.
“’Dream of the Red Chamber'” had a profound impact in connecting San Francisco Opera to its broader Bay Area community,” Shilvock said. “It’s thrilling, then, that this impact will continue as ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ travels to China in one of the most exciting American-Chinese cultural bridges to emerge in recent years.”
The Mercury News
The MacArthur Fellow Bright Sheng was born on December 6, 1955, in Shanghai and moved to New York in l982. He is currently the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor at University of Michigan, and Y. K. Pao Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Sheng has collaborated with distinguished musicians such as Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Christoph Eschenbach, Charles Dutoit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Gerard Schwarz, David Robertson, David Zinman, Neeme Järvi, Robert Spano, Hugh Wolff, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Gil Shaham, Yefim Bronfman, Lynn Harrell, Peter Serkin, Chao-Liang Lin and Evelyn Glennie. He has been widely commissioned and performed by many important institutions in North America, Europe and Asia, including the White House, the 2008 Beijing International Olympic Games, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, LA Philharmonic, Minnesota Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra de Paris, BBC Symphony, Hamburg Radio Symphony, Danish National Symphony, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.
Exclusively published by G. Schirmer Inc. in New York City, Sheng has recordings on Sony, Decca, and 12 exclusive discs on Naxos, Talarc, Delos, Koch International, New World labels and BIS.
In September 2016, San Francisco Opera premiered Sheng’s commissioned opera Dream of The Red Chamber featuring a libretto by David Henry Hwang and Sheng based on a beloved 18th-century Chinese novel by Cao Xueqin. Co-produced with the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the opera sold out its runs in both places. In September, Sheng conducts his opera in a three-city tour of China.
As a conductor, he has worked with the San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony, St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia, Dortmund Philharmonic in Germany, China National Symphony, among others; and has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center.
Since 2011, he has been the Founder and Artistic Director of The Intimacy of Creativity—The Bright Sheng Partnership: Composers Meet Performers in Hong Kong, an annual two-week workshop with a new approach to creativity.
David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang's work includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Golden Child, Yellow Face, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Disney’s Tarzan.
He is also America’s most-produced living opera librettist, who has worked with composers Philip Glass (1,000 Airplanes on the Roof), Osvaldo Golijov (Ainadamar), Bright Sheng (The Silver River), Unsuk Chin (Alice in Wonderland), Huang Ruo (An American Soldier), and Howard Shore (The Fly). Hwang is a Tony Award winner and three-time nominee, a three-time OBIE Award winner, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
His screenplays include Possession (co-writer), Golden Gate, and M. Butterfly, and he is currently a writer/producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series, The Affair.
Hwang serves as Head of Playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts, and as Chair of the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards.
A revival of M. Butterfly, starring Clive Owen and directly by Julie Taymor, will open on Broadway in fall 2017.
One of the preeminent voices in the contemporary Chinese theatre, Stan Lai has been called "Asia's top theatre director," (Asiaweek), "the best Chinese language playwright and director in the world," (BBC) "one of the most celebrated Chinese-language playwrights and directors," (New York Times) and "Asia's flagship playwright." (China Daily)
Lai's work helped revolutionize modern theatre in Taiwan in the 1980s, and later, through performances throughout China, influenced a generation of theatre artists and helped create a viable audience base for contemporary theatre in China. His 35 original plays to date include many iconic works of the Chinese language theatre. The New York Times calls his Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land (1986) "the most popular contemporary play in China." The Beijing News calls his The Village (2008) "the pinnacle of our era of theatre." China Daily calls his epic 8 hour A Dream Like A Dream (2000) "possibly the greatest Chinese-language play since time immemorial," comparing it to the novel Dream of the Red Chamber as "the most elaborate theater work in Chinese history." Lai's previous opera credits include Journey to the West, the libretto of which he wrote, and Mozart's Figaro, Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni.
Lai's feature films The Peach Blossom Land and The Red Lotus Society received awards at the Tokyo, Berlin and Singapore festivals. His creation and direction of the 2009 Deaflympics Opening Ceremony in Taipei was acclaimed as "unforgettable." (China Post) His book On Creativity (in Chinese only) has become a classic in creative studies. Lai holds a Ph.D. in Dramatic Art from the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught extensively at the Taipei National University of the Arts, and at Berkeley and Stanford. In 2013 Lai co-founded the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, which has become China's top festival. In 2015 he opened Theatre Above in Shanghai, dedicated to the performance of his works.
As a world-renowned visual artist, art director for stage and film and fashion designer, Tim Yip continues to explore and communicate his aesthetic oft "New Orientalism." his interpretation of ancient culture as a means to inspire the future. He works widely in contemporary art, clothing, theatre, film, literature and other creative fields. For Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Yip won the Oscar in 2001 for Best Art Direction, becoming the first Chinese to be awarded by the Academy in that category.
Since joining his first movie A Better Tomorrow (1986), Yip has created sets and costumes for many films, cooperating with world famous directors such as John Woo, Ang Li, Feng Xiaogang, Cai Mingliang, Chen Guofu, Guan Jinpeng, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Li Shaohong and more. His films include Red Cliff, The Banquet, Back to 1942, The Message, The Promise, Springtime in Small Town, Ming Ghost, Rouge, Temptation of a Monk, Ripening Orange, the NETFLIX television series Marco Polo and many others embodying a spirit of creativity and the cultural atmosphere from which they sprung. He is currently focusing on the Fengshen Trilogy, the first film of the trilogy scheduled for release in 2020.
In the theatre, Tim Yip has collaborated with many world-renowned practitioners and groups, including Robert Wilson, Franco Dragone, Zhang Yimou, Stan Lai, Yang Liping, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Contemporary Legend Theater, Han Tang Yue Fu, Swarovski Troupe and U Theatre. His theatre productions include Medea, The Feast of Han Xizai, The Palace of Eternal Youth, A Dream like a Dream, The Peacock, and Under Siege, working with San Francisco Opera, Sadler's Wells, the Joyce Theater, Palais de Chaillot, Opera-Comique Paris, Graz Opera House, Beijing’s National Center of Performing Arts, and Taipei National Palace Museum, among others. He has participated in the Edinburgh Festival, Avignon Festival, Lyon Dance Biennale and a number of other international arts festivals. In 2004, Tim Yip was the visual designer for the Athens Olympic Games closing ceremony. In 2010, he collaborated with world-renowned choreographer and dancer Akram Khan as visual artist (set and costume design) for Desh, which won the American Bessie Award and the British Olivier Award. Yip and Khan have since collaborated on Until the Lions, and in 2016 with the English National Ballet on its new production of Giselle. In September 2016, Yip designed costumes and sets for San Fransisco Opera’s world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, directed by Stan Lai, which had its Asia premiere at the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2017. Yip’s footprints can be found in China, Austria, France, the United States, Britain, Spain, Japan, Israel and across the globe.
Beggars drift through the ruins of a once-great home as a monk appears. He needs to tell the world an extraordinary story: a stone, left behind from the construction of Heaven, nurtured a crimson pearl flower with its dew for 3,000 years. Together, Stone and Flower seek to fulfill their love by living as mortals on earth. The Monk tries to dissuade them from such a course. But Stone and Flower disobey, traveling through a magic mirror to earth.
Scene 1: The Grand Hall
Flower becomes Dai Yu, a brilliant but sickly young woman whose mother has just died. She arrives in the home of one of the dynasty’s most prestigious old families, the Jia clan. Granny Jia, Dai Yu’s grandmother, loved Dai Yu’s late mother. But Lady Wang, Granny Jia’s daughter-in-law, takes an immediate dislike to the newcomer.
The Stone becomes the Jia’s sole male heir: Bao Yu, Lady Wang’s son, a spoiled youth born with a piece of jade in his mouth. When introduced, Bao Yu and Dai Yu feel they have met before. Envoys from the Emperor announce the promotion of Bao Yu’s elder sister to the coveted rank of Princess. For generations, the Jias have owed a huge debt to the Imperial Court, but Princess Jia’s promotion
suggests that the Emperor might be willing to make peace with his long-time rivals.
Scene 2: Dai Yu’s chamber
Later that night, Bao Yu hears Dai Yu playing the qin (a stringed instrument). They begin to write poems together; her skill is superior. They resolve to transform the world with music.
Scene 3: Pear Court Pavilion
The seasons change as time passes. To counter Dai Yu’s influence, Lady Wang brings her niece, the beautiful Bao Chai from the wealthy Xue clan, into their home. Her mother, Aunt Xue, seeks entrée to high society, while Lady Wang seeks to repay the Imperial debt; they hope to make a match. Though Bao Chai is perfect in so many ways, Bao Yu is disgusted by her practicality. Granny, on the other hand, hopes her grandson will marry Dai Yu.
Scene 4: Bao Yu’s chamber
Bao Yu has an erotic dream in which both women appear. Though attracted to Bao Chai, he feels Dai Yu is his soulmate.
Scene 5: The Grand Hall
Princess Jia arrives home for a visit. She tells Lady Wang that the palace is filled with enemies, and she fears she cannot keep her position. The Emperor wants Bao Yu to marry Bao Chai, and the Princess gives them both the same gift to symbolize these wishes. This delights Lady Wang, upsets Granny, and throws Dai Yu into despair. But Bao Yu resolves their love will triumph.
Scene 1: Bamboo grove
Dai Yu’s health continues to decline. On the bank of her favorite lake, she buries the falling peach blossom petals. Overhearing her, Bao Yu is profoundly moved. She teases him about the Princess’ wish for him to marry Bao Chai, and storms off. But she overhears Bao Yu declaring that he remains devoted to her.
Bao Chai enters, meeting Dai Yu for the first time.
Scene 2: Princess Jia’s quarters at the palace / Granny’s chamber
Princess Jia writes a desperate letter to her family informing them that she has lost the power struggle and will be dead by the time they read this. There is only one way for the Jias to save themselves.
Granny Jia falls ill. She declares that she wants her grandson to marry Dai Yu. A eunuch arrives, bearing the letter from the Princess. Granny Jia dies, sending the clan into mourning.
Scene 3: A hall in the estate
Now head of the clan, Lady Wang orders her son to carry out the Emperor’s wishes and marry Bao Chai. This is the only way to pay back the Imperial debt. She has sent Dai Yu away to the other side of the lake. Bao Yu is defiant.
Scene 4: Far side of the lake / Bamboo grove
Dai Yu burns the poems she and Bao Yu wrote. But Bao Yu makes a stand for love, and tells Lady Wang he will become a monk. Defeated, Lady Wang agrees to let Bao Yu marry Dai Yu.
Scene 5: The Grand Hall
At the wedding, Bao Yu exchanges vows with his bride, who is veiled. Once they are married, Bao Yu discovers he has actually married Bao Chai, tricked by Aunt Xue and Lady Wang! Suddenly, Imperial soldiers storm in to confiscate all property of the Jia and Xue clans. The Emperor only encouraged this marriage so that when he arrested the Jias, he could also seize the Xue fortune. The soldiers sack and burn the estate.
Scene 6: Lake / Monk’s room
We realize that the Monk is Bao Yu’s older self, writing his own life story. After the wedding, Dai Yu slowly walks into the lake, where she disappears. The Jia family has become beggars, wandering through the illusion known as life.
It wasn’t the first time that the San Francisco Opera had looked toward China. That was in 2008, with Stewart Wallace’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, with a libretto by Bay Area native Amy Tan based on her novel. And of course, there was John Adams’s Nixon in China. Neither of those, though, could properly be called a Chinese classic.
But Dream of the Red Chamber, which has its world premiere on September 10, 2016 at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House—and continued on to the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2017—is not just a classic. To millions of Chinese readers, it’s the classic. Cao Xueqin’s epic novel of ill-fated love amidst a prominent family’s spiraling decline has inspired numerous films and spoken dramas, two television series and far too many Chinese operas to count. But never before has the story made it—in English, no less—to the international operatic stage.
The creators of Red Chamber—the Dream team, if you will—are notable not just for their personal accomplishments but also the breadth of their background. The range of perspectives from MacArthur-winning Shanghai-born composer Bright Sheng, Tony-winning American-born playwright David Henry Hwang, American-born Taiwanese director Stan Lai and Oscar-winning Hong Kong-born designer Tim Yip were perfectly pitched to haul San Francisco audiences into another culture and era. The composer, librettist and director got together to share different perspectives on turning one of China’s most beloved novels into a contemporary musical drama.
Dream of the Red Chamber is almost universally known in the Chinese world but barely registers at all with readers in the West. What was your personal relationship with the story before this project began?
BRIGHT SHENG: I first started reading Dream of the Red Chamber when I was 12 or 13, which is about the same age as Bao Yu in the novel. This was during the Cultural Revolution, and I wished that I too could be surrounded by beautiful women and have his extravagant lifestyle. That was the initial attraction. Later on, in my late teens, I read the book again and began to appreciate the literary content. I’d skipped over all the poetry before, but now I noticed the narrative techniques. I still didn't pay much attention to the scholarly details until later. I’ve reread the book every 10 years or so, and since I got the commission to write the opera, I read it through twice more. So now I’m a dilettante Redologist, which is what they call academics who devote themselves to studying the novel. At least I could have a meaningful conversation with a real Redologist.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: I had no real relationship with the material. I mean, I knew it was one of the four great Chinese novels, along with The Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin and Journey to the West. But my Chinese is horrible, so I couldn’t actually read it in the original language. And even now my knowledge of the book is still pretty superficial. But I have the benefit of collaborating with Bright, who has a long history with the novel, and Stan, who’s digested Dream of the Red Chamber throughout most of his professional life.
STAN LAI: Dream of the Red Chamber has resonated with me ever since I first read it as a freshman in college. It had all the elements of a popular novel, and yet transcends mere popularity. Some of the story’s structural sensibility has made its way into my own work, particularly the idea that something so simple and normal-looking on the surface can underneath be very profound. Much of the profundity in Red Chamber comes from the way the author opens with the stone and the flower, which becomes a metaphor encapsulating elements of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism—the three incredibly vast philosophical systems that work together in making up the Chinese mind.
How did each of you get involved in the project?
SHENG: Pearl Bergad at the Chinese Heritage Foundation in Minnesota had this crazy idea to do an opera of Red Chamber in English. The foundation first approached Kevin Smith at the Minnesota Opera, who arranged a meeting with David Gockley, who approached me. And then I approached David Hwang, whom I’d worked with before. He didn’t want to do it at first, but I persuaded him.
HWANG: I said absolutely no, I’m not going to adapt this story into an opera, because it just seemed impossible. The book is twice as long as War and Peace, with more than 400 characters. How can you shape that into a two-and-a–half-hour show that has any relationship to the source material or respects it in any measurable way? But Bright grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and I grew up in Los Angeles, so consequently his will is much stronger than mine. First, he said, “At some point in your life you have to read this book, so here’s your chance.” But more importantly, Bright had a vision of how to tell the story. So I agreed, provided we share the credit, since half the work of a librettist is determining the structure.
SHENG: I did a rough draft—more of a synopsis, really—that David was very happy with, and after that we worked very closely. I had a general vision, but he wrote every word. He was able to sketch rich domestic scenes and bring out the different personalities of each character in only a few lines. That was masterful. And moreover, I just love the beauty of his words.
LAI: I came into the project after the first draft of the full libretto was finished, and I immediately embraced the major choices that David and Bright had made. It was, I should add, a gross simplification of the novel. The process is by definition rough and insulting to the author, even if you’re being loyal to the story. So while there’s a big discount in terms of detail and dialogue, we’ve tried not to discount the novel’s profundity.
We’ve established that Red Chamber is a teeming epic, even by operatic standards. What did it take to restructure 2,500 pages into a manageable two-act opera?
SHENG: We all had long conversations about just what this novel is about, which is something not even Redologists agree on. In opera, you have to boil down the material to one major element. The problem with War and Peace as an opera—and Prokofiev was an experienced composer—is that he wasn’t daring enough in choosing what to cut. In the novel, the love story was just a sideline. In an opera, of course, you want to beef up the love story. You can’t disregard the politics, since that’s what the novel was all about. So in the end the opera tried to do both equally and lost focus. For us, Red Chamber is a love story. The main point isn’t the political intrigue, though we’ve kept that as the historical backdrop.
HWANG: It’s easier to talk about what we kept than what we jettisoned. The love triangle, I think, is a pretty universal element. People can relate to that, and it’s essential and true to the novel. And operas function very effectively when they're about love and loss and passion and, well, suicide. But we also have the Jia family, an incredibly wealthy, established family now in decline. There’s a constant tension just below the surface, which later became a metaphor for the decline of Imperial China, sort of like Downtown Abbey of the Qing Dynasty. And so elements that have to do with the political machinations and how the Emperor manipulates this corruption to bring down the family is a crucial sociopolitical aspect of the story. And also, it’s just good plot material, in a sort of House of Cards fashion.
LAI: As far as the original material is concerned, we’ve entered this opera with the best intentions, which does give us some poetic license. For me, it was a process of discovering how to take something that might take up a whole chapter in the novel and translate it into a single image on stage.
Audiences in San Francisco will surely be calling this a "Chinese" opera, but it resembles nothing that you’d see on stage in China. Do you think audiences there would find it “Chinese” enough? Was your goal as creators to emphasize international storytelling with a Chinese story, or to bring a Chinese story to the international stage?
HWANG: As the most "American" of the group, with the thinnest personal history regarding the original story, my role has been to bring an outsider’s perspective. One distinction I’ve noticed between contemporary Western and traditional Chinese storytelling styles is that the latter tends towards episodic, rather than serial, narrative. In other words, traditional Chinese epics are a bit like early television: episodes can often be viewed by themselves or out of order without too much impact on the larger story. Translating Red Chamber into a Western dramatic mode involved steering the action towards a climactic event.
SHENG: Any great opera has a great story. Tosca and La Traviata have come to China, where people have a totally different culture, and audiences were still touched by the music and the drama. We were making Dream of the Red Chamber for an international audience. Whether the audience is Chinese or Western, a touching story about ill-fated love should appeal to everyone.
LAI: I don't see it in terms of China and the West. I’m a storyteller in the theatre. That’s my job: to tell the story in whatever way resonates most deeply with the audience. As I said, the story already encapsulates the whole Chinese mind and experience. I don’t think it needs any more Chineseness. Even if you bring a whole avant-garde European flavor to it—which I’m definitely not, by the way—the story will still come out Chinese. If we were doing it for a Chinese audience there’s only one big change I would suggest, which is to perform it in Chinese. As far as staging is concerned, I think there’s sufficient visual language in common for what we do to resonate in Beijing as well.
Like all great classics, Red Chamber is filled with elements that are distinctly of their culture, yet universal. Which was harder, translating this work on a linguistic-cultural level, or instilling an ancient story with contemporary relevance?
LAI: I think both are equally challenging. For example, the opera has a wedding scene. In Chinese tradition, wedding ceremonies are much different: the couple gives their offerings to the heavens and the parents, and then they're married. But how do we make this clear to an audience in San Francisco today?
SHENG: David Hwang and I have worked well in this type of adaptation right from our first collaboration, The Silver River. Because I spent the first half of my life in China, I completely understand the way Chinese culture sees the story. David comes from an almost purely Western point of view. So we both have to be happy with what we come up with before we move forward. And with Stan, whose background is mainly in modern drama, we work through yet another perspective.
HWANG: Both the political intrigue and the love triangle are true to the novel and still highly relatable to a contemporary audience. But this love triangle is different from Western romantic conventions, which leads us to the novel’s spiritual framework: the uber-story about the stone and the flower. On some otherworldly plane, the stone has continually watered the flower with morning dew for thousands of years. The flower wants to express her gratitude, so they ask a priest if she and the stone can be incarnated as humans and express earthly love. The priest warns them that it’s a bad idea, but they do it anyway. And this metaphysical element sets up an interesting thematic question: to what extent can true love exist in a corrupt material world? And that, too, is a very contemporary, universal concern.
SHENG: One of the things that our version makes plain—and this point has been almost entirely neglected by Redologists—is that Bao Yu and Dai Yu are the only two characters whose lives were pre-ordained. They don’t realize it right away. Dai Yu doesn’t even live in the same house as Bao Yu until her mother passes away. But still they were destined to find each other as soulmates.
The novel is known for being a one-stop guide to Chinese traditions, with highly detailed descriptions of daily life in the Qing dynasty. What were the most challenging details to put on stage today?
HWANG: Fortunately, most of the physical details fall into Stan's and Tim's departments. What's challenging from a libretto standpoint is that everything in the novel is stated by the characters in such an indirect fashion. For example, no one just comes out and says they love another character. Conveying this refinement of speech, while also making the story clear to a contemporary American audience, took some work on my part. Bright would often give me the note that a passage I'd written was too baldly stated!
SHENG: There’s a moment in the last scene in Act I where the princess, now the Emperor’s favorite concubine, comes home with gifts from the Emperor. She has fans for both Bao Yu and Bao Chai, and they’re obviously a pair. It’s a clear message. Marriage back then was not decided by love. It was all determined by social status, and now you even have the Emperor promising this union. It’s a bombshell for Dai Yu, and the cliff-hanger for the audience at the end of Act I. I didn’t just want to illustrate it in the score with a tam-tam or something like that, because that wouldn’t be elegant enough. But I did add a stage direction: “Dai Yu collapses to her knees.” The rest is Stan’s job.
LAI: This is the kind of thing that any Chinese person would understand immediately, but we had to find a way to make sure Western audiences realized that the Emperor himself is playing matchmaker, decreeing that Bao Yu and Bao Chai should be together. Another example came in the fourth scene in Act II, when Dai Yu burns her poetry while Bao Yu is lamenting that he won’t be able to marry her. So I asked, where is Bao Yu on stage at this point? Tim Yip and I had set that scene somewhere in the garden, but we weren’t specific. So I decided to move Bao Yu to the same point where he had been spying on Dai Yu earlier as she was catching blossoms and burying them. Now we have Bao Yu recalling this scene in his aria at the same time Dai Yu is burning her poetry. This is one of the most famous scenes in the whole novel and an image that resonates very deeply in Chinese culture.