Tan Dun - Marco Polo (2 cd)

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MARCO POLO - An Opera within an opera -

Tan Dun
libretto: Paul Griffiths

Polo: Thomas Young, Dramatic Tenor
Marco: Alexandra Montano, Mezzo-Soprano
Kublai Khan: Dong-Jian Gong, Bass 
Water: Susan Botti, Soprano 
Rustichello/Li Po: Shi-Zheng Chen, Beijing Opera Singer 
Sheherazada/Mahler/Queen: Nina Warren, Dramatic Soprano
Dante/Shakespeare: Stephen Bryant, Baritone
Ya Dong, Pipa 
Wolfram Winkel, Tabla 
Al Gromer Khan, Sitar 

The Netherlands Radio Kamerorkest
CAPPELLA AMSTERDAM directed by Daniel Reuss
Conductor: Tan Dun

A co-production of the Munich Biennale (premiere may 8-14,1996), the Holland Festival (premiere june 17-20, 1996), and the Hong Kong Arts Festival (premiere february 14-16, 1997) Executive producers music-theatregroup director Martha Clarke Recorded live at the Beurs van Berlage, Yakult Hall Amsterdam, Holland, june 20, 1996 Producer: Robert Nasveld (NPS) Co-producer: Grace Row Sound engineer: Arie Dubbeldam (NOB-audio, Hilversum)s2k 62912

Beluister fragmenten van deze cd

The Book of Timespace- Winter - 'I have not told one half of what I saw'

Piazza - 'no'

Piazza - 'what a place that was'

Piazza - 'Venezia vento'

Piazza - 'journey - shin tsen'

Piazza - 'wayward the air this morning'

Piazza - 'listen'

Piazza - 'the past goes on'

The Book of Timespace- Spring - 'we stood at the harbour'

Sea - 'such a moment'

Sea - 'slowly on your thighs'

Sea - 'the sea a sound a thing an animal'

Sea - 's-sksk... every face a mask'

Sea - 's-sksk... spilled from a fountain'

'Desert... As Near As My Finger's End'



'I Wait'


Himalaya (Dance)

'Himalaya' (Overtone Singing)

'Stone Song'

'Human, A Grace Note'

'Was This In The Book?'

'I Have Not Told'

'The Journey That Was Yours'

'If Life Is Only A Dream'

'Wenn Nur Ein Traum Das Leben Ist'

'We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On'

'From High'

'At The Middle Of The Earth'

'Tsong Gou'

'Death Could Not Be Colder'

'Beyond The Rule Of The Khan'


On the creation of MARCO POLO
By Tan Dun

"Do you compose the music, or does the music compose you?"

I couldn 't really answer this question, posed to me twenty years ago by a Southern Chinese monk, until fifteen years later, when I began composing MARCO POLO .Yes, in each of my compositions, I think sounds and different musical cultures guide my own development, leading me through a deeper journey before the work can reach technical refinement. From Medieval to Mongolian chants; from Western Opera to Beijing Opera; from orchestra to sitar, pipa and Tibetan ritual horns - the fusion of musical sounds from all corners of the globe is the definition of "Marco Polo" to me. Did Marco Polo 's journey actually happen? Did someone dream it up? Or did the journey imagine us? Is Chuang Zi a butterfly, or is the butterfly Chuang Zi? My colleague Paul said it weIl: 'Journeys are like dawns in having no beginning or ending but only continuing. " 

Marco Polo is everyone and everything: you, me, and it.

Inwriting MARCO POLO, an opera within an opera, Paul Griffiths and I conceived oj three journeys: Physical, Spiritual, and Musical. 

I) The Physical journey is the story of Marco, the traveler, from Italy to China. It seems that everyone's version of Marco Polo's travels is dfferent, and I expect each director will respond to different elements of these tales in creating the dramatic world of the opera.

2) The Spiritual Journey is a reflection on the three states of the human being - past, present, and future - and on the cycle of nature. The Wall of the physical journey is also the invisible Wall that separates these three states within each individual and prevents their synthesis into a whole being. Marco and Polo begin as two characters relating, sharing the journeys , at first alternating word by word, later phrase by phrase, and finally joining in a true duet. In the course of this journey they encounter and are brought closer together by various figures and elements oj nature: Dante, Shakespeare, Sheherazada, Li Po, Mahler and Water. Marco and Kublai Khan are the only real people; Polo is memory; the others are beyond human: Shadows and Nature. 

3) The Musical journey is closely related to both the physical and spiritual journeys. There are two operas occurring simultaneously . First (Opera I) is the Book of Timespace, which is developed on Eastern opera vocal and instrumental traditions. The second (Opera II) is developed on Western opera traditions blending and layering different musical styles, colors, and languages, using both Eastern and Western instruments.

Also, while writing the score, the following things were important to me in terms of distinguishing and defining the characters:

1) Marco and Kublai Khan may be the only realistically /historically costumed characters in the opera. They represent the two extremes of the journey and should be costumed to highligh this Medieval/Chinese contrast.

2) Polo, Dante and Rustichello should be costumed neutrally, that is, outside the limitations of time, age, and historical context. Dante should always appear in a mask which does not cover his mouth; Rustichello always witha painted face similar to a Beijing Opera singer. 

3) Water is of Nature, and this may be reflected in any way possible such as lights, and /or film, in addition to costume and make-up.

4) Sheherazada should begin with the appearance of the story-teller she is in myth. The transition to Mahler may be made simply by adding a Western jacket. When she becomes the Queen, an appropriate headpiece can be added.

Of primary importance to me is that the production reflect the three journeys of Marco Polo, the concept of "an opera within an opera," and that the production be simple and magical.

TAN DUN's music is a vital expression of independence from the weight of Chinese history, and of self- assurance amid contemporary turmoil. The vibrant presence of both East and West within him has created a unique sound world, always personal, a!ways authentic. Every part of Tan Dun's music is violent as a burst of human blood, yet full of grace, a voice of the soul. I believe he is one of the most outstanding composers today. 

Toru Takemitsu 

It is c!ear in the music of Tan Dun that sounds are central to the nature in which we live but to which we have too long not listened. His music is one we need as the East and West come together as our one home.

John Cage

Composer/conductor Tan Dun was born in 1957 in Hunan, China. After planting rice for two years during the Cultural Revolu tion, Tan worked as an arranger and a fiddle-player in a Beijing opera troupe. At the age of nineteen, he heard Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for the first time and began to dream of becoming a composer. One year later, Tan was admitted to the Central Conservatory in Beijing, where he studied with Li Ying Hai and Zhao Xin Dao. In 1986 a fellowship at Columbla University brought him to New York City, where he completed the doctoral program in music composition. Since then, Tan has lived in New York City. 

Tan Dun's works have been performed by the London Sinfonietta, BBC Scottish Symphony, Arditti String Quartet, Kroumata, Contrechamps (Geneva), Los Angeles New Music Group, Ensemble Modern, Nieuw Ensemble, and China Philharmonic. His Ghost Opera for the Kronos Quartet has toured worldwide. Marco Polo was commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival and premiered in 1996 at the Munich Biennale, with subsequent performances at the Holland Festival, the Hong Kong Festival, and scheduled presentations at the New York City Opera and Nancy (France) Opéra. The noted German magazine 'Oper' named Tan "composer of the year" for Marco Polo. 

As a conductor, Tan Dun is known for programming distinctive and compelling twentieth-century works, and his recent appointment as Resident Composer / Conductor with the BBC Scottish Symphony gives him a platform for this work. Tan has recentIy conducted the London Sinfonietta, the Tokyo Symphony's Fiftieth Anniversary concert, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center,the Munich Chamber Symphony, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Proms in London. 

In 1993 Tanbecame the youngest composer to win the prestigious Suntory Prize Commission from Toru Takemitsu, and in 1994 Hans Werner Henze invited him to serve on the jury for the International Music Theatre Awards. In 1996, Tan received the City af Toronto - Glenn Gould International Protégé Award in Canada. His works have been selected for major festivals around the world and have been the subject of television and film documentaries by Finnish Television (featuring Lutoslawski and Tan), Danish Television has (featuring Adams, Lachenmann, Tan and Vries) and the BBC (Tan's orchestral and experimental works). In addition to classical compositions, Tan is known for his experimental projects, such as music for ceramics, for water, for paper, for stones. He often collaborates with visual and performance artists, choreagraphers, theater and film directors. Tan Dun is an exclusive artist with Sony Classical, and his music is published by G. Schirmer. 


was born in Bridgend, Wales, in 1947. He studied biochemistry at Oxford and joined the editorial team of The New Grove in 1973. Around the same time, he began working as a music critic for various London papers, especially The Times and The Financial Times. He was chief music critic of The Times from 1982 to 1992, when he joined The New Yorker. Since that time he has been commuting between New York and his home in a small village outside Oxford. He is married, with two sons.

Griffiths's first book, A Concise History of Modern Music, came out in 1978 and has been translated into several languages, including French, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese and Welsh. A new edition was published in 1994. His other books on music include studies of Boulez, Cage, Messiaen, Ligeti, Davies, Bartók, Stravinsky, and the string quartet. His latest book, Modern Music and After, was published in 1995.

Among Griffiths's fictional works are several libretti and three novels - Myself and Marco Polo, which won a Common- weaith Writer's Prize; The Lay of Sir Tristram and a pale hope I. His libretto for The Jewel Box, with music by Mozart, was performed by Opera North in 1991, and, by invitation, at Glyndebourne, by the Skylight Opera of Milwaukee (1993) and by the Wolf Trap Opera (1994).
Griffiths has also made translations for performance of works by Mozart ( The Magic Flute), Puccini (La Boheme) and Stravinsky ( The Soldier's Tale). Marco Polo, with music by Tan Dun, premièred in Munich in May 1996.

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