The Minneapolis-based Chinese Heritage Foundation’s commission “Dream of the Red Chamber” by San Francisco Opera will be touring the People’s Republic of China this month. The tour will include two performances each in three Chinese cities:
Sept. 8 & 9 in Beijing’s Poly Theatre
Sept. 15 & 16 in Changsha. The two performances are part of the grand opening of the Meixihu International Culture and Arts Centre Grand Theatre, one of the last projects designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid
Sept. 22 & 23 in Wuhan’s Qintai Grand Theatre
The “Dream of the Red Chamber” performances will be conducted by Bright 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. Performances will be by the original world premiere cast members.
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 ... 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.”
“Dream” played to capacity crowds at its world premiere at San Francisco Opera’s War Memorial Opera House last September 10 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 lengthy 18th-century novel, the opera focuses on the illustrious Jia clan and the love triangle of Bao Yu, the young Jia heir, with two very different women: Dai Yu, his soulmate, and Bao Chai, a worldly beauty. The Jia family’s future and union between Bao Yu and Dai Yu are jeopardized when the emperor rejects Princess Jia as his favored concubine. Framed by a dreamlike prologue and epilogue,”Dream” 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 the classic novel by the same name catering to non-Chinese speaking audiences. The tour performances will be sung in English with subtitles in both English and Chinese.