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Music Text

Libretto by Harald Kunz after a Chinese novel of the 16th century; English version by Robert Gay (G,E)

Scoring

S,M,T,2Bar,B; off-stage chorus(may be pre-recorded);
2(I=afl,II=picc).2(II=corA).1(=bcl).1(=dbn)-2.1.1.1-timp(=2hand bell).perc(3):glsp/2Bak/4tpl.bl/3cym/4tom-t/3gong/2tgl/tamb/SD/BD/guiro/ratchet/whip/sm sleigh bells/maracas/tam-t-harp-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
2/23/1969
Opernhaus, Nürnberg
Wolfgang Weber, director
Conductor: Hans Gierster
Company: Städtische Bühnen Nürnberg

Roles

LAO-TSE Tenor
TSCHUANG-TSE Baritone
MRS. TIÄN, his wife Mezzo Soprano
YOUNG WIDOW Soprano
PRINCE FU High Baritone
THE PRINCE'S SERVANT Bass
Visitors at the cemetery, spirits
Synopsis

The Taoist, Tschuang-tse, desires to attain the last stage of wisdom and cast off all earthly shackles. For this, it is necessary to get rid of his wife. He manages this through macabre cunning and trickery, a Taoistic Gianni Schicchi, a buffo who gives up the world. Here, it is already apparent that Tao and Mao are irreconcilably far apart and that Yun is concerned with the ancient Eastern philosophy of gently smiling quietism. This philosophical musical comedy – at times, solemnly subtle; at others, spine-chillingly grotesque – was written at a time and under circumstances that put the author's tranquility to a severe test: in a prison for people awaiting trial in Seoul, during1967-68. Yun not only rose above the external circumstances but also above the claims to power of orthodox methods of composition... There are symphonic interludes which are of such a suggestive force that one might say that the one-act operas are the best things that Yun has composed... ringing and tinkling systems of thought, allegories for full orchestra.
Karl Schumann

Moods

Comic, Poetic

Subjects

Magic/Mystery, Relationships, Religion, Society




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