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Santa Fe Opera Preview: the American Premiere of ‘Dr. Sun Yat-Sen,’ Plus a Rare Production of Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Jun 20, 2014 01:59 AM EDT

Santa Fe Opera's 2014 season, which begins on June 27, contains much to look forward to: the long-awaited American premiere of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen by Chinese composer Huang Ruo; an ingenious pairing of Mozart's The Impresario with Stravinsky's Le Rossignol; as well as a rarity--a new production of Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera.

Although its overtures are frequently performed in U.S. concert halls, the complete Fidelio is hardly ever performed in this country. This may be due to the opera's reputation as being imperfect: a heroic, yet flawed work from a composer more renowned for his flawless masterpieces.

That assessment may be valid, but I have not had the luxury of forming my own opinion about the work, because I have never had the opportunity to hear Fidelio live. Those who have travel plans to the Southwest this summer might do well to check out Santa Fe's production, because it may be your only opportunity for quite some time.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, with music by 37-year-old composer Huang Ruo, explores the public and private life of the renowned Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, in the context of the epic struggle to overthrow China's ancient monarchy and create a modern national identity for China.

The opera, which received its world premiere in Hong Kong in 2011, focuses on Sun Yat-Sen's life starting in 1913, when he was in exile in Japan, until his death in 1925. But the opera is more than just a historical narrative. "Anyone can read the history of the Revolution," Ruo has said. "Our opera imagines Sun Yat-Sen in a broader, personal context."

The opera will be sung in Mandarin by a cast of Chinese and American singers, featuring tenor Warren Mok in the title role. Ruo describes the music as integrating Chinese operatic and theatrical elements with western contemporary musical language.

Santa Fe will present Mozart's one-act opera The Impresario on a double bill with Stravinsky's Le Rossignol this season, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Le Rossignol 's world premiere in Paris, 1914.

"Stravinsky holds a very sentimental place in the heart of The Santa Fe Opera," General Director Charles MacKay said in a statement. "It was his presence here at the height of his fame that gave our fledgling company its first bona fides. He spent the first six seasons conducting and sharing his enormous gifts."

Director Michael Gieleta has tied the two operas together in an unusual and clever way: the setting of The Impresario has been moved to Paris in the 1920s, and the characters who audition in The Impresario are vying for the positions they later sing in Le Rossignol.

All of which makes for a perfectly balanced double-bill, of Mozartean classicism countered by Stravinsky's astringent modernism.

More information about the productions of Santa Fe's 2014 season is available at santafeopera.org.

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TagsSanta Fe Opera, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Huang Ruo, Warren Mok, Beethoven, Fidelio, Mozart, The Impresario, Stravinsky, Le Rossignol, Charles MacKay