"...characterized by a strong dramatic bent and a great sense of pacing. Moments of driving rhythm...alternate with passages of intense lyricism..."
–The New York Times
One of the most enthralling historical operas, Dr. Sun Yat-sen by the distinguished Chinese-born American composer Huang Ruo makes its American premiere. Charles MacKay calls Ruo “one of the most gifted and imaginative composers writing today,” whose music has galvanized critics and audiences internationally with its thrilling blend of Eastern, Western, folk and classical styles. Dr. Sun Yat-sen depicts the epic struggle to overthrow China’s ancient monarchy and build a modern national identity for one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The tenor Joseph Dennis sings the title role. The conductor will be the exciting Carolyn Kuan, in demand with opera and ballet companies throughout the world. James Robinson directs.
8:30 pm July 26
8:00 pm July 30; August 8, 14
Composer Huang Ruo
Librettist Candace Mui-ngam Chong
Sung in Mandarin
Charlie’s House, Shanghai
Charlie Soong, a Chinese revolutionary, is hosting a gala in his home, ostensibly to raise money to build a church, but actually to gather funds for his colleague and leader of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance, Sun Yat-sen. His wife, Ni Gui-zhen, takes him aside and expresses her worry about Charlie’s illegal activities. Moments later, Sun Yat-sen arrives. From the second he enters the room, Sun becomes the focus of attention. His wife Lu Mu-zhen follows him at a much slower pace. She is a traditional countrywoman with bound feet. Charlie and guests feel sorry for Sun Yat-sen. Just as the guests begin to rally around the cause, a messenger arrives and hands Charlie a note: a reward has been placed on Sun’s head.
Scene 1: Umeya’s Residence, Japan
Fleeing to Japan where he is in exile, Sun Yat-sen takes up residence with his friend Umeya and continues his revolutionary activities with his new aide, Charlie Soong’s daughter Ching-ling. She is attracted to his revolutionary ideals, he to her vivacity. They fall in love.
Scene 2: Sun and Ching-ling’s wedding, Umeya’s Residence, Japan
At the wedding, Charlie enters, furious. Not only has Charlie not given his consent to the marriage, but Sun still remains married to a woman in China. To everyone’s surprise, Charlie brings in Sun’s first wife, Lu Mu-zhen, in the hope that she can ruin the wedding. With a touching aria, Mu-zhen instead sings about her misfortune and sacrifice. She, to everyone’s surprise, finally gives Sun her signed divorce paper, setting him free to marry Chingling. Outraged, Charlie walks out of the wedding, renouncing both Ching-ling and Sun, and his association with the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance.
Scene 1: China
Back in China, Sun tries to overthrow the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty with the help of Yuan Shi-kai. Under Sun’s leadership the regime of the Qing Dynasty is overthrown and he is named provisional president of the new republic. The new government’s hold is weak and Yuan Shi-kai, an ambitious general in the revolution, betrays Sun and becomes president, a step in achieving his final goal of naming himself the new emperor of a new dynasty. Sun Yat-sen, accompanied by his newlywed wife Ching-ling, is giving speeches in various locations in China, gathering supports to overthrow Yuan Shi-kai’s rule. One night, Sun’s house is under attacks by Yuan’s assassins. During their escape, Ching-ling miscarries their baby. In the midst of all this tragedy, a messenger appears to tell Sun that Charlie is on his deathbed and wanting to see both him and Ching-ling.
Scene 2: Charlie’s House, Shanghai
Charlie is ill and dying. Ching-ling arrives at his home alone, and assures her father that she is truly in love with Sun Yat-sen. Charlie, ashamed, confesses that he had all but given up his revolutionary dreams, but Sun’s indomitable determination and idealism has renewed his confidence. His final speech, a blessing to Sun and Ching-ling and a meditation on the true meaning of what it is to be a revolutionary, is overlaid with a speech of Sun’s. The two men share this spiritual reunion, revolutionaries to the end.
The opera ends as a large statue of Sun Yat-sen is revealed. A crowd honors the timeless man.
- Dr. Sun Yat-sen - Joseph Dennis
- Soong Ching-ling - Corinne Winters
- Ni Gui-zhen - MaryAnn McCormick
- Charlie Soong - Gong Dong-Jian
- Mr. Umeya - Chen Ye Yuan
- Conductor - Carolyn Kuan
- Director - James Robinson
- Scenic Designer - Allen Moyer
- Costume Designer - James Schuette
- Lighting Designer - Adrian Smith
- Choreographer - Seán Curran
- Chorus Master - Susanne Sheston