Programme Details

Madame White Snake
by Zhou Long and Cerise Lim Jacobs

One of China’s most well-known folktales, Madame White Snake is the story of a demon in pursuit of love. Hailed as “a deeply expressive opera”, this version’s unique musical language blending Chinese and Western elements saw composer Zhou Long become the first Chinese laureate of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2011.

 

INTRODUCTION

A ravishing Chinese folk story re-imagined as an otherworldly opera

“Scintillatingly performed” Wall Street Journal
“Combines delicacy, lyricism, and power” Opera News

After 1,000 years of meditation, Madame White Snake awakens to find herself transformed. Having surrendered her demon-immortality to take on a human form, Madame White realises her wish to meet her lover from a prior life, the herbalist Xu Xian. After marrying him and becoming pregnant, a watchful Abbot becomes fearful of a child begot by a demon and a mortal and reveals Madame White’s secret past, only for Xu’s subsequent betrayal to cause a series of irreversible tragedies.

One of the four major Chinese folk tales, Madame White Snake recounts a demon’s incessant pursuit of love against all odds, her whole-hearted sacrifice and inevitable revenge. The timeless myth has previously been presented across multiple art-forms including dance and Chinese opera, with this Western opera setting by Zhou Long awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Praised by the Pulitzer Committee as “a deeply expressive opera”, Zhou’s score for Madame White Snake saw him become the first Chinese laureate in the Prize’s long history. 

Well-known for a unique musical language that blends both Chinese and Western elements, in this masterpiece Zhou blends a Western orchestra with traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the two-stringed erhu fiddle, bamboo flute and xun ocarina. Beijing opera inflections are seamlessly incorporated into the singers’ vocal lines alongside soaring lyrical passages and even Schoenbergian Sprechstimme. The music is accompanied by colourful projections depicting landscapes, seasons, and fantastic figures such as an immense slithering white snake, intensifying the drama and stimulating the senses in this ravishing, romantic tale that transcends both language and culture.


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CAST & CREATIVES

Composer 
Zhou Long

Librettist 
Cerise Lim Jacobs 

Conductor 
Lan Shui

Director and Production Designer 
Michael Counts

Costume Designer 
Zane Pilstron 

Lighting Designer 
Zhao Yi 

Projection Designer 
S. Katy Tucker

Répétiteur 
Nina Yip 

Chorus Masters 
Felix Yeung
Dominic Lam


Madame White Snake 
Susannah Biller

Xiao Qing 
Michael Maniaci 

Xu Xian 
Peter Tantsits

Abbot 
Gong Dong-jian

With Hong Kong Philharmonic OrchestraHong Kong Arts Festival Chorus and Hong Kong Children’s Choir

 

Photo credit

Jill Steinberg
James Matthew Daniel

  • FESTIVAL PERFORMANCES

    DATE / TIME

    8 - 9 / 3 / 2019  19:30

     

    VENUE

    Lyric Theatre, HKAPA