In 2011 CHFF embarked on a seemingly impossible project to commission a new, contemporary opera based on the beloved Chinese classic novel, Dream of the Red Chamber (Dream). This opera would be premiered by a major U.S. opera company.
This project would fulfill all the mission objectives of our Foundation: to preserve and promote Chinese heritage, culture, and history and, at the same time, to encourage innovation in the arts. In carrying out this mission we hope to improve mutual understanding between the Chinese community and the world community at large.
Since its publication more than two centuries ago, Dream has become one of the most popular novels in China. It has been translated into English several times. These translations, particularly the one by David Hawkes and John Minford, have brought Dream a worldwide following. It has also brought about a special branch of critical studies, termed Redology, with members throughout the world. Dream has inspired numerous artistic adaptations and creations – plays, dances, paintings, and films, including a Peking opera, mostly in Chinese.
In commissioning a new opera, to be sung in English, we hope to bring the heartbreaking and timeless love-triangle story in Dream to a new worldwide audience, in the rich and evocative medium of contemporary opera.
Kevin Smith, recently retired from the presidency of Minnesota Opera, joined us as our artistic advisor and proceeded to identifying an opera company that would be interested in our project. San Francisco Opera, under General Director David Gockley, expressed an early interest. Together we talked to Chinese composer Bright Sheng and librettist/playwright David Henry Hwang about the possibility to compose an opera based on Dream.
In August, 2011, both Bright and David came to Minneapolis to visit with us. In a dinner reception we held for them they told us about their enthusiasm and initial thoughts on this exciting and significant project. (Please visit Photo Gallery) In the ensuing two years there were many conversations among Bright, David HH, San Francisco Opera and us. We are happy to announce that everyone has agreed to work on this project and the expected world premiere will take place at the SF Opera in the fall of 2016.
Between now and the world premiere in two years' time, we will be developing many events around this big and exciting project. Since many among us are not familiar with, or have forgotten (!), this heartbreaking novel, we will start with a series of leisurely evenings, in a moveable family pot luck style around the metropolitan area (one coming soon near you!), during which we will view YouTubes or other excerpts of previous adaptations, discuss the meanings of the names of the principals, their exploits, whys and wherefors, current or previous lives, etc., etc., etc.
These promise to be fun and exciting evenings. Besides becoming experts on this novel, you might like to come and share (or try out) your culinary skills. And best of all, these gatherings will be wonderful opportunities for us to get to know each other better. So please come back here soon and watch for the launch of these leisurely evenings!