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Christina Martos Sings Role of Annina, Replacing Maria Kanyova
July 06, 2007

Christina Martos Sings Role of Annina, Replacing Maria Kanyova

Christina Martos Sings Role of Annina, Replacing Maria Kanyova

A Co-Commission with Asian Performaing Arts of Colorado (APAC)

Jul 6, 2007
4:25pm

Denver, Co. - The second offering of Central City Opera’s 75th anniversary 2007 Festival will be the world premiere of an opera by Chinese composer Guo Wenjing*. Co-commissioned with Asian Performing Arts of Colorado (APAC), Poet Li Bai follows the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet (701-763 AD) and his two companions: fruit-based alcohol, personified by Wine, and flights of fancy, personified by Moon. The three characters piece together the life stories, hopes and fears of a legendary man who loved life with a passion to the very end. East meets west in this piece with music that pairs classic Chinese sounds and instruments with flowing melodies. This special addition to the festival will be presented in six performances: July 7, 13, 15, 20, 26 and 28. All performances are sung in Chinese with English supertitles and take place at the Central City Opera House in Central City, Colo.

“The challenge for any composer is to write 21st century music for a subject that is obviously not of our time. There’s the need to put the poetry on a modern platform. What makes opera distinctive is the way that music adds layers of depth to the text,” states composer Guo Wenjing. “When I write, I really don’t want to reflect what happened a thousand years ago. I don’t know how it sounded - nobody knows how it sounded. I write entirely for the audiences of today.”

The Poet Li Bai libretto is by Diana Liao* and Xu Ying*, who have collaborated on the writing of a number of operatic librettos, including Tan Dun’s Tea: A Mirror of Soul which will make its American premiere at Santa Fe Opera this summer.

Visit www.centralcityopera.org for the Poet Li Bai blog and a behind the scenes look into the world premiere including costume renderings, sounds excerpts, and complete interviews with composer Guo Wenjing, librettist Diana Liao, and conductor Ed Spanjaard.

Performing Artists
Dutch maestro Ed Spanjaard* makes his Central City Opera debut conducting the world premiere of Poet Li Bai. Mr. Spanjaard, Chief Conductor of Limburg Symphony Orchestra, has premiered many interesting compositions, including the internationally acclaimed chamber operas of Guo Wenjing’s Wolf Cub Villag and Night Banquet. Making his CCO debut in the title role will be Denver University alumnus Hao Jiang Tian*, one of today’s most sought after basso cantante, he performed in December at the Metropolitan Opera opposite Placido Domingo in Tan Dun’s world premiere of The First Emperor, and will perform in the world premiere of the operatic adaptation of Amy Tan’s novel, A Bonesetter’s Daughter, at San Francisco Opera in 2008-09. Hao Jiang Tian’s most recent credits include Timur in Turandotat Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Fernando in Il Trovatore at San Diego Opera. Having recently performed Pamina in Opera Colorado’s The Magic Flute and making her debut this season with the Metropolitan Opera in the same role, soprano Ying Huang* will make her CCO debut in the role of Moon. Additionally, Ms. Huang has recently performed the roles of Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Santa Fe Opera, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro at Teatro de la Opera. Chi Liming,* tenor, will also be making his CCO debut in the role of Wine. Most recent credits include Major Kovalyov in The Nose at the Beijing Music Festival, Calaf in Turandot at La Fenice, and Romeo in Romeo et Juliette at Virginia Opera. Tenor Jiang Qihu*, a leading member of the China Peking Opera Company, will recite Li Bai’s poems in the best tradition of Peking opera. Additional credits by the world-renowned performer are the world premiere of Guo Wenjing’s Fengyiting (Phoenix Pavilion) at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Guo Wenjing’s Night Banquet at Paris Autumn Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, and Lincoln Center Festival, and Ong Keng Sen’s King Lear International Tour. Central City Opera collaborates with the Chorus of University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music*, directed by Catherine Sailer*, for this premiere. Ms. Sailer has also been a Guest Conductor for both the Beijing Symphony and National Opera of China. A special addition to the Central City Opera 2007 Festival Orchestra for this piece, the bamboo flute is played by Liu Qichao. A graduate from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Mr. Liu has performed traditional and world music in theatre, operatic and film projects ranging from Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior to Lethal Weapon IV.

Production Team
This new production is directed by Lin Zhaohua.* Considered one of the most prominent figures in the history of Chinese drama, his work, from Peking opera to modern drama, has been showcased on stages worldwide. Set and costume designer Yi Liming* has created more than 100 productions, ranging from opera to dance to experimental theater. His refreshing ideas have charmed audiences not only in China, but also in New York, Berlin, London, Paris and Rome. Lighting designer David Martin Jacques returns as resident lighting designer for 2007 after his most recent appearance with the company lighting Madama Butterfly and Vanessa in 2005.

The Legendary Poet - Li Bai
Like Shakespeare to the English, every Chinese person can recite a few lines of the 1000-year-old Tang Dynasty poet, making Li Bai the single most famous Chinese writer in the world. His work has been compared with the brilliance of Mozart’s music, as both are seen as symbols of a free-spirited talent and Li Bai’s poetry rolled naturally off his tongue. Li Bai grew up in a time when poetry was very developed and poets were astoundingly prolific. Everyone in the Chinese intelligentsia wrote poetry, yet no one claimed it as their goal in life. In fact their ultimate goal in life was to serve in the royal court. Li Bai was no different, but despite his poetic talent, he did not have a leader’s mind. Although he lived well into his 60s, he served only two or three years in the Emperor’s court in Chang’an (now Xi’an). Soon after his arrival in court, he lost favor with the Emperor and was asked to leave. The country soon went into turmoil and Li Bai became a follower of one of the Emperor’s sons, Yong Wang, who planned to revolt. Unfortunately the plan failed, and Li Bai was imprisoned and sent into exile. This opera opens with Li Bai in Guizhou, where he lived for some time until he was pardoned. “It’s a reflection of Li Bai as a poet and everything that is dear to him,” states librettist Diana Liao. “Li Bai lived in a way I found very attractive. He was not attracted by the media of his day. He spent months at a time in really bad places like Gansu and Qinghai (as they’re called today) and from that bare-bone existence was still able to command such exuberance.”

Asian Performing Arts of Colorado- Celebrating 20 Years
In addition to Central City Opera’s 75th anniversary, the co-commission of this world premiere also celebrates the 20th anniversary of Asian Performing Arts of Colorado (APAC). APAC was established in 1986 as a non-profit organization to foster cultural exchange between the Asian and American peoples and to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of Asian culture in the Asian community in Colorado. APAC will host a sold-out 20th Anniversary Gala on opening night of Poet Li Bai July 7. For more information on APAC, visit www.asianperformingarts.org.

This Central City Opera production of Poet Li Bai was facilitated by Bel Canto International, LLC, a joint venture funded by Anna and John J. Sie with the collaborative efforts of Hao Jiang Tian and Martha Liao.

(*=Central City Opera Debut)

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For tickets or additional information visit www.centralcityopera.org or call (303) 292-6700

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Currently in its 75th year, the Central City Opera House Association is the nation’s fifth-oldest opera company, located just 35 miles west of Denver in one of Colorado’s official National Landmark Historic Districts. The company continues to pursue its four-part mission to present artistically excellent professional opera; to offer career-entry training to young singers; to produce education and community service programs; and to preserve and maintain the Opera House and 30 other Victorian-era properties. The 2007 75th Anniversary Festival includes Verdi's La Traviata, the world premiere of Guo Wenjing's Poet Li Bai, Massenet's Cinderella and Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street. For tickets and information call (303) 292-6700, (800) 851-8175 or visit www.centralcityopera.org..

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