Sunday, May 11, 2008

The First Emperor at the Met

Last night I went to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York to see "The First Emperor", a two-act opera conducted by the composer, Tan Dun. Placido Domingo sang the role of the Emperor Qin, and Sarah Coburn the role of his daughter, the Princess Yueyang. This is the Emperor who set about unifying the country (by conquest) and building the Great Wall; he also left behind an army of terra-cotta soldiers to guard his tomb.

The opening of traditional chants by Wu-Hsing Kuo in the role of the Yin-Yang Master (the court geomancer) was perhaps the most striking musical moment, coupled as it was with dance, some of which involved wearing a mask on the back of his head while moving as if he were facing the audience. The sets were splendid, especially the third scene, where snow appears to fall as the Princess seduces her father's captive nemesis, the musician Gao Jianli.

The cast played to a full audience, and the building is magnificent, of course. However, the house was hot and stuffy and the seating was a bit cramped, so it was also pleasureable to leave the theater for the New York night and stroll past Central Park back to my hotel, the Parker Meridian. Here I was too cold, since they had turned off the heating for the summer, so the only place I was truly comfortable during this trip was out in the street.

No comments: