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Tan Dun Marco Polo

Polo: Charles Workman
Marco: Sarah Castle
Kublai Khan: Stephen Richardson
Water: Nancy Allen Lundy
Shadow 1/Rustichello/Li Po: Zhang Jun
Shadow 2/Sheherazada/Mahler/Queen: Tania Kross
Shadow3/Dante/Shakespeare: Stephen Bryant
Chinese/Arabian dancer: Mu Na

Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Cappella Amsterdam
Musical Director: Tan Dun
Stage Director: Pierre Audi

Recorded live at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, on 13th and 18th November 2008

Opus Arte DVD OA 1010 D

Here is a mind blowing musical theatrical experience which on first confrontation baffles.

My strong recommendation is to watch first the "extras", an illustrated synopsis for orientation of the journey through the seasons, and from medieval western music by way of those of the the Middle East, India, Tibet, Mongolia and ultimately to China*, and a 25 mins documentary The Music of Tomorrow. In that, you have glimpses of an early rehearsal, with an inspiring demonstration of the professionalism, versatility and willingness to experiment in new musical worlds shown by a committed cast of singers, dancers and musicians, with Tan Dun and his collaborators charting completely new fields.

The biggest barrier for western listeners may probably be the oriental singing styles adopted and demonstrated by the composer himself. Eastern instruments, including the delectable pi-pa make for no such difficulty.

I hope to follow up this introduction to an important DVD release with a review from one of our voice/opera specialists. Meanwhile I commend strongly a collection of reviews assembled by Tan Dun's publisher, G Schirmer, and a particularly perceptive individual response by Anne Ku, lavishly illustrated, discovered in "le Bon Journal", which may encourage purchasing "something completely different".

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Synopsis: In ‘Marco Polo, an opera within an opera’, composer Tan Dun portrays the Venetian explorer’s travels to the Far East as a journey of both inner and physical discovery, a voyage depicting spiritual experiences as well as a geographical expedition - - a compositional adventure of the composer himself, unifying the various cultural worlds he occupies: a blend of Western avant garde and Oriental traditions - - a stunning symbiosis of elements across time and space, a true testimony to cultures intertwined in globalisation.

PHOTO CREDIT: Clärchen und Matthias Baus