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General Director Charles MacKay announced that The Santa Fe Opera will present the American premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-sen in the 2014 Festival Season. The opera, which commemorates the centennial of China’s 1911 Revolution, was commissioned by Opera Hong Kong and given its world premiere there on October 13, 2011.
“Huang Ruo is one of the most gifted and imaginative composers writing today,” MacKay said. “His music is exotic and distinctive, with a lovely lyrical quality which makes it very approachable for the voice. It is very moving and beautiful, and fits the Company’s mission perfectly.”
“I wish to express the gratitude on behalf of The Santa Fe Opera Board of Directors to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of Dr. Sun Yat-sen,” MacKay continued. “The Foundation, long a tireless advocate of new operas, has also made a commitment to support Theodore Morrison’s opera, Oscar, to be premiered in the 2013 season, and Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in 2015. Its pledge has made possible these three operas for Santa Fe and for what we hope will become a part of the American operatic canon.”
Thirty-five year-old composer Ruo was born on Hainan Island, China and was admitted to the Shanghai Conservatory at the age of 12. He moved to the United States to continue his education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and at the Juilliard School where he received his master’s and doctorate degrees.
He has written for a wide range of genres including chamber and symphony orchestras, theater, modern dance, multi-media, experimental improvisations, folk rock and film. Ruo has been called “one of the most intriguing of the new crop of Asian-American composers” by The New Yorker magazine. Ruo was present in Santa Fe for the announcement of his opera.
A revered figure in Chinese history who is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, Sun Yat-sen was born in 1866 and died in 1925. Called the “Father of the Nation,” he helped overthrow the monarchy. His political and personal life was a constant struggle and is the basis for the opera.
The three-act opera has a libretto by Candace Mui-ngam Chong. It focuses on Yat-sen’s wife, Soong Chingling, and her father, who was one of Sun’s earliest and most active supporters.
The composer describes the opera’s musical style as neither strictly Western nor Chinese, serving the text with integrations of both as needed. The title role will be sung by the internationally acclaimed tenor Warren Mok, who sang the Hong Kong premiere, and, in his capacity as Artistic Director of Opera Hong Kong, commissioned the opera.
The director of “Dr. Sun Yat-sen” is James Robinson, the scenic designer is Allen Moyer and the costume designer is James Schuette. All three have worked with the company previously. Robinson and Moyer collaborated on the 2003 production of “Così fan tutte” and its revival in 2007. Moyer’s latest work in Santa Fe was the 2011 production of “The Last Savage.” Schuette designed the costumes for “Carmen” in 1999.
The American premiere of “Miss Fortune,” a new opera by Judith Weir, planned for the 2014 Festival Season, will not be presented.