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Photo: Wilfried Hösl
München 2007 (WP production), Achim Freyer dir.

Chin, Unsuk

Alice in Wonderland (2004-2007)

Duration: 120 minutes
Opera in eight scenes

Libretto by David Henry Hwang and Unsuk Chin based on the Lewis Carroll books 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' (E)

3S,M,CT,2T,2B; chorus between 40-60 singers; additional children's chorus with a minimum of 20;
3(II=picc,III=picc,afl).2(II=corA).3(II=Ebcl,III=bcl).2(II=dbn)- marimbaphone/xyl/vib/vibraslap/cencerros/4tgl/8susp.cym(3sm,3med,2lg)/3tam-t(sm,med,lg)/sand.bl and sandpaper(fine,med,coarse)/3tom-t/3tamb(2sm)/3maracas/4pea-whistle/bird-whistle/5tpl.bl(v.high)/guiro/1crystal wine glass/2 metal.bl(v.high)/castanets(high, low)/alarm clock/6SD/crot/plate bells(A,E,F)/4chromonica(Bb,C,D,E)/finger cyms/3sistrum/2cyms(1sm)/BD/8pop-bottles(different sizes)/ratchet(sm)/3whip/wood wind chime/bell tree/2metal grille(sm,med)/2Javanese gongs(Bb,C)/siren/flexatone/wind machine/anvil/timbales(sm)/Brazilian bamboo shaker/2trash-cans/20wine glasses/15forks/13spoons/5sm metal casseroles/3metal rattles/5thin metal sticks/auto-horn/t.bells/2chimes(v.low pitch)/2thunder sheets(sm,lg)/4bongos/swanee flute/glass wind chimes/lion's roar/harmonica-harp-pft(=cel,hpd)-acc-mandolin-sampler-strings(;
On-stage: bcl; Offstage: perc(4): cyms/SD(sm)/1trash-can/3metal casseroles/thunder sheet

Reduced orchestration (by Lloyd Moore): 3S,M,CT,2T,2B; chorus; additional children's chorus
2(I=picc,II=picc,afl,swanee fl).2(II-corA).2(II-Ebcl,bcl).2(II=dbn)- block/guiro/cast/alarm clock/4SD/BD/finger cyms/cyms/whip/bell tree/siren/flexatone/metal rattle/auto-horn/t.bells/2chimes/4bongo/trash cans/kitchenalia-harp.mand.pft(=cel,hpd)-sampler-strings(min:; double basses with 5 strings required); On-stage: bcl, (trash cans with kitchenalia may be used onstage for theatrical effect)..
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Bayerische Staatsoper, München
Achim Freyer, director
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Company: Bayerische Staatsoper

World premiere of version
Loretto Hilton Center, Saint Louis, MO
James Robinson, director
Conductor: Michael Christie
Company: Opera Theatre Of Saint Louis


UGLY DUCHESS / OWL / TWOMezzo-soprano
QUEEN OF HEARTSDramatic soprano
CATERPILLARSolo bass clarinet

Scene I – Dream I
Alice opens a book in the library, which thereupon turns into a treasure chamber. She meets a boy, who’s fate is to carry a mummified cat, and two old men whom she asks in vain to flee before the door to the treasure chamber closes.

Scene II – The Pool of Tears
Alice follows the White Rabbit down a hole in the ground, falls into the depths and finds herself in front of several locked doors.
Alice opens one door with a key and sees a garden full of bright flowers, but the door is too small for her to get through into the garden.
Alice drinks from a little bottle with a label on it, on which the words ‚Drink Me‘ are printed, shrinks and is now too small to open the door with the big key.
Alice eats a cake from a little box which has a label with ‚Eat Me‘ printed on it, grows again and is now too big to get through the doors.
Alice startles the White Rabbit with her size, and he drops the kid gloves and the fan.
Alice cries, falls into a pool of her own tears and offends a mouse swimming in the pool by talking enthusiastically about her cat.
Alice and other wet creatures dry off as they listen to the mouse telling them the driest story he knows.
Alice again mentions her cat and all the animals flee.

Scene III – In the House of the White Rabbit
Alice has to look for the gloves and the fan and enters the house. Her body grows again while the White Rabbit sings a love song at the windows and the door.

Interlude I – Advice from a Caterpillar
Alice hears words of wisdom from the caterpillar about the advantages of change.

Scene IV – Pig and Pepper
Alice meets the Fish and the Frog, footmen in livery, as well as the Duchess with the Baby, the Cook and the Cheshire Cat.
Alice is shocked by the ill-treatment of the Baby at the hands of the Duchess and the Cook and sings a lullaby for the baby, which turns into a pig.
Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, whose body is disappearing all the time, about the way to somewhere and is sent to see the March Hare.

Scene V – A Mad Tea Party
Alice meets the March Hare, the Dormouse and the Mad Hatter, for whom time has stood still and whom nobody has been able to help.
Alice is excluded from the tea party.

Scene VI – The Croquet Ground
Alice comes across three gardeners who are trying to turn white roses into red ones for the Queen of Hearts.
Alice is invited by the Queen of Hearts to a game of croquet with no rules, which ends in chaos, and the Queen orders the bodyless cat to be beheaded. The executioner fails to do this, as one cannot cut the head off a cat with no body.

Interlude II
Alice is rescued from the philosophizing Duchess by the Queen and taken to eat Mock Turtle soup until soldiers call people to come to court for a trial.

Scene VII – The Trial or Who Stole the Tarts?
Alice is called upon as the third witness, after the Mad Hatter and the Cook, to testify about what happened to the tarts.
Alice is not afraid as she realizes that the Court and the Queen of Hearts are ridiculous, nothing but a pack of playing cards.

Finale – Dream II
At the request of an invisible man, Alice searches in vain for seeds in the infertile black soil of the garden, whereupon the invisible man puts seeds in her hand.
Alice sows flowers which turn into shining light.

© Bavarian State Opera, English translation by Susan Bollinger

Press Quotes
"...as anarchic and surreal as the book itself... Chin has written one of the most significant of recent new operas."

"Chin's opera is so brilliantly orchestrated that the instruments alone are more than enough to steal all of an audience's attention... Alice is not childish. It is a dream opera with a dark side."
Los Angeles Times

"Chin’s Alice revels in paradox and riddles, pastiche and parody. The timbres are ear-piercingly bright, precise and often mesmerising."
The Observer

Comic, Poetic

Magic/Mystery, Literary

Recommended Recording
Sally Matthews / Piia Komsi / Dietrich Henschel / Andrew Watts / Gwyneth Jones
Achim Freyer, director / Ellen Fellmann, video director
Bayerisches Staatsoper and Staatsorchester / Kent Nagano
Unitel A05016472

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