Mar. 2nd, 2010

starlady: the philosopher's garden (obligatory china icon)
So I went with [ profile] kwviola to see the Opera Company of Philadelphia put on Tan Dun's Tea: A Mirror of Soul at the Academy of Music on Sunday. It was…hmm. On one level, I really liked it. On another, it was unlike any other opera I've seen in ways both great and strange. K talked about it (including the story of the percussionists trying out their drums--clay pots--in Home Depot during the snowstorm) here at her journal.

Tea was commissioned for the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, where it premiered in 2002. It tells the story of Prince Seikyo of Japan, who asks for the hand of Princess Lan of China and who must journey with her in search of the 茶經/茶经/Chajing/Book of Tea in order to prove the prince her brother's claim to possess the book a lie.

As one can hopefully guess from even this brief summary, the plot is a rich melange of Chinese and Japanese history, actual cultural artifacts (the Chajing really was written by a monk named Lu Yu in the eighth century CE), opera tropes, and literary quotations, principally from The Journey to the West. Needless to say I enjoyed very much that Seikyo narrates the story from a temple in Kyoto, and for the most part I was able to let the willful anachronism of mixing high Tang in China with the rise of the culture of tea and of Zen in Japan, which didn't really take off until the medieval period (sidenote: most of what's commonly called "traditional" Japanese culture is medieval in origin; the Heian period is doubly distant from the contemporary era), slide. (Needless to say, [ profile] kwviola and I kept up a running string of Saiyuki jokes during the pre-performance opera talk.)

After this tea, home.  )

Afterward we had sushi at Raw and gelato at Capogiro. I can't recommend Capogiro highly enough. And I really want to see Chinese opera--particularly Peking opera, though there are many other regional styles.

If anyone has an extra ticket for the OCP/Curtis production of Barber's Antony and Cleopatra this month, talk to me.