In November, Tan Dun’s opera Marco Polo was presented in a new production by De Nederlandse Opera. Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of De Nederlandse Opera will direct and Tan Dun will conduct. The opera tells the tale in which Marco and Polo, led by the shadows of Dante and Scheherazade, journey from Venetian darkness across seas, desert and the high Himalayas to arrive at The Wall, where Kublai Khan awaits them. Medieval chant, ancient timbres, violence, longing and the sensuality of nature open a world of light. In four dreams and three interviews, Marco and Polo are led by the Shadows of Shakespeare, Freud and John Cage to examine inner space. Chuang Zi dreams as a butterfly; Mahler and Li Po drink to the song of the earth. In China or elsewhere, is contact possible? Can love be achieved? Kublai still waits; Marco and Polo give way to Marco Polo; the unending begins.
Tan Dun portrays the Venetian explorer Marco Polo’s expedition to the Far East as a journey of both inner and physical discovery. Along the way he not only meets up with historical figures but also with those internal forces experienced by any person who sets out to surmount spiritual as well as physical challenges. The division of the title role into two figures is thus logical, and the significance of the subtitle ‘an opera within an opera’ becomes clear from the depiction of spiritual experiences as well as the geographical journey. Both serve to draw lessons for the future, based on the past, via the present. At the same time the work can be seen as the compositional journey of the composer himself, who attempts to unify the various cultural worlds he occupies: a blend of Western avant garde and Oriental traditions.www.marcopoloinamsterdam.nl