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Tan Dun

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Peony Pavilion (1998)
Text Writer
Tang Xianzu (1598). Translation by Cyril Birch
G Schirmer Inc
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
1 Hour 50 Minutes
Soprano, Tenor, Chinese Opera actress
Purchase CD
Programme Note
Tan Dun Peony Pavilion (1998)
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downloadable brochure
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A "modern improvisation on old materials": Peony Pavilion, the masterpiece of traditional Chinese Kunqu opera, renewed and revived by a new adaptation of text and music. A drama of love and death, reality and illusion which merges virtuoso acting, avant-garde Western opera, electronic music, ceremonial dance, ritual, martial arts, and poetry in a unique theatrical experience to dazzle all the senses. Presented by Madame Hua Wenyi, one of the greatest actresses of the Chinese theatre, and a group of young Chinese and American performers.

Cast List:

   BRIDAL DU: Soprano
   SISTER STONE: Chinese Kun-Opera or Peking-Opera actress

   CHORUS: Baritones, plus all musicians


   THE JUDGE: Electronic Midi Horn, Xun and Dizi
   THE CLERK: Electronic Midi Horn, and Sona (or Kiri, or Taeponso)
   ZHAO: Sampler (or Computer)
   SUN: Percussion: bangu drum (Chinese Opera Drum), Chinese cymb. (6'), small gong (8' with pitch bending), large bass drum, water gong (12'-14'), ratchet
   LI: Percussion: drum set (pedal bass drum, 4 tom toms, hi-hat, snare drum, cymb.), udo drum (a ceramic drum with 2 sound holes), maraca, guiro, Chinese cymb. (6'), brush, bow, flexitone, 4 small Chinese bells (or finger bells), 2 cowbells (large and small)


Bridal Du, daughter of Du Baoyan, the provinicial governor of Nan-an, falls asleep in the garden, intoxicated by the springtime. She dreams of meeting a handsome young man. Upon waking, she pines for this dream lover, and languishes with lovesickness. Eventually she dies of her longings, and is buried in the garden. Three years later, the young scholar Liu Mengmei finds a portrait of Bridal Du while in the garden, and falls in love with her picture. Faithful to her dream even in death, Bridal Du steps out of the painting; as a wandering ghost she pursues her dream lover. Liu Mengmei helps bring her back to life, and she becomes his wife.

  • Soloist(s)
    Ying Huang, soprano
There is opera, and then, Friday evening, there was Opera. The American premiere of [Tan Dun] and Peter Sellars' production of Tang Xianzu's "The Peony Pavilion" bore all the evidence of a high-profile, immensely important cultural event-and, three hours and 15 minutes later, it justified all the hoopla. [With a] stunning new score by Tan Dun, THE PEONY PAVILION bridges centuries as well as cultures in this modern arrangement of a classic Chinese opera. As soon as Tan Dun's urgent, enchanting score kicks in, THE PEONY PAVILION reaches for the stars. Tan has fused Chinese modes with rock. The vocal line leaps, soars and purrs and it delineates character with consummate brilliance. He uses an orchestra that comprises both traditional Asian instruments and electronics. A recorded chorus chants, and a featured pipa player serves as a modern equivalent for Monteverdi's continuo. Opera has not in years sounded so vital or original. Nobody could depart the production without pondering the future of lyric theater, and how its salvation may lie in the distant past.
Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner,01/01/0001
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