Compositions‎ > ‎

Opera and Music Theater

Composed on a libretto in English by Chinese poet Zhang Er, Fiery Jade- Cai Yan is a full-length opera in a prologue and three acts for ten principal singers, chorus and chamber orchestra (fl, ob, cl. bs, sop. sax, tpt, harp, string quartet and 4 percussionists). It tells the story of a historical Chinese woman from the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (around 200 CE) who was a famous poet and musician, widowed by war and politics, and then famously captured by raiding Xiongnu (Mongolian) raiders and taken north to marry a leader. After 12 years and two children she was ransomed back to China where she had to confront the new king to save the life of her (now third) husband. She is one of the most famous of women poets from ancient China and has been celebrated over the centuries in poems, songs, Chinese opera and most recently video games! 

Fiery Jade- Cai Yan premiered in a student production at Pacific Lutheran University Opera Workshop production directed by James Brown in November, 2016.  The extensive harp part was performed by Catherine Case. Scene change music was provided by Chinese traditional flute virtuoso Wang Yingying, professor of music at Ocean University in Qingdao, China.

An 11 minute documentary with interviews with myself and the librettist, Zhang Er, was made by TVTacoma for their series ArtTown
and a video article was published by the Tacoma News Tribune, made by Arts reporter Rosemary Ponnekanti.

Here is a wordpress blog site with more information

Composed on my own original libretto, Songs from the Cedar House is a full-length opera in four acts that tells of Native-White interaction in the Pacific Northwest from the first arrivals of Europeans in the late 18th century to the present day. An outgrowth of my choral piece If We Sell You Our Land (1986), a setting of portions of a contemporary author's "riff" on Chief Seattle's famous speech, Songs From The Cedar House interspersed white "history" with Native "storytelling" to force a consideration of how the two cultures could not understand each other and led to the tragic destruction of Native cultures. The opera employed a number of principal roles, a chamber orchestra with three percussionists, and a large and vital choral part. 

The opera premiered at Pacific Lutheran University in 1991, directed by Richard Sparks, and with lead roles performed by Barry Johnson and Mira Frohnmayer. 

The result of a program of study at The Evergreen State College on Chinese poetry and theater, The Blooming Season was a collaboration between book and lyrics writer Nick McCord and myself as composer, directed by Rose Jang and with poet and cultural dramaturg Zhang Er as overall mentor.  Though performed in a workshop  production without trained voices and an improvisational arrangement by oral-tradition musicians, the production shows great promise and I really like the songs which came out of it. 

Here are studio recordings on Soundcloud made with live voices over MIDI tracks of some of the songs from the show.