On June 30, Opus Arte releases Marco Polo, Tan Dun’s first full-length opera, for which the composer won the coveted Grawemeyer Award in 1998. Recorded live at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, in November 2008, the production is directed by Pierre Audi, and features Charles Workman, Sarah Castle, Stephen Richardson, Nancy Allen Lundy, Zhang Jun, Tania Kross, Stephen Bryant, and Mu Na. The composer himself leads the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Cappella Amsterdam. Bonus material includes a documentary entitled The Music of Tomorrow, which includes interviews with the creative team and principal cast members.
Marco Polo premiered at the Munich Biennale in 1996, with subsequent performances at the Holland Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, New York City Opera, and Settembre Musica in Turin. When questioned about his choice of subject, Tan Dun replied: “It’s a ripe subject for the times and global culture … My personal experience as a traveler from East to West is similar to Polo’s from West to East. I thought the best thing was to draw on my own experience, on my feelings about culture and about the idea of journey. Marco Polo is a symbol of journey, of travel from past to the future, from external space to internal space, from one medium to another. All crossover journeys excite me, and Polo is a great excuse to explore them.”
Tan Dun and librettist Paul Griffiths designed their opera in many layers and have divided the figure of the Traveler into two parts, Marco and Polo; Marco represents the external figure of the Venetian explorer, whereas Polo is his inner being, his memory. They are united only at the end of their journey, when they fuse together into one person. The opera comprises three parallel journeys: one physical, one spiritual, one musical.