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June 10, 1995 | Minnesota Opera
Bok Choy Variations-A Tale from the Red Dust
Composer:Evan Chen
Librettist:Fifi Servoss
Synopsis
Four young Chinese men, first encountered in the opera as children, are unsettled by the conformity of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution, and dream of moving to America. They make a pact that they will all maintain a bond throughout life and meet in New York City ten years later. DaWei, who dreams of becoming a great concert pianist, falls in love with May-a relationship that is forbidden by May's mother. Unhappy about a required surprise test about Mao's life, DaWei walks out of the University in political protest. Distraught over his loss of May and the political oppression around him, he agrees to go away with Sophia, a Greek exchange teacher, who loses her job because of the political protest. They leave for Greece and agree on a marriage of convenience. DaWei is unhappy in Greece. His ambitions about becoming a great musician are slipping away. Sophia loves him but she realizes that she must set him free so he can pursue his dreams. DaWei travels to San Francisco, where he meets his friend ZhangGuo, now a smuggler of Chinese immigrants to America. Disillusioned, lonely, and alienated, he is soon visited by Sophia, who asks for a divorce. Billy, a jazz musician, encourages DaWei to use his music as a way of facing up to his past. The four friends have their reunion in New York. Fong has opened a restaurant; Lee, an artist, paints sidewalk portraits in Times Square; ZhangGuo is thinking of returning to China; DaWei has graduated from the Conservatory. All are disillusioned and feel unwanted by both their homeland and their new, adopted land. DaWei learns that May is recently separated from her husband Fong. Confronting Fong with this news, da Wei learns that Lee has been murdered. DaWei returns to San Francisco to complete his composition, urged on by the many ghosts of his past.

Title Information

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Musical Style
Melodic; vivid orchestral detail; mixes jazz and popular idioms, such as Greek folk music, with modernist techniques, both acoustic and electronic; some mimimalism. Use of arias, recitatives, duets, quartets, and ensemble finales.

Vocal & Musical Forces
description of voices unavailable (15 men, 6 women, 4 children); Two flutes, oboe (English horn), clarinet (bass clarinet), saxophone, horn, trumpet, trombone, 4 keyboard players, 2 percussion, drums, electric and acoustic guitar, electric and acoustic bass, 2 violins, viola, cello

Original Cast
Jason Ma (DaWei)
Christine Toy (DaWei's mother/May's mother)
Alan Muraoka (Lee)
Edmund Eng (ZhangGuo)
Scott Watanabe (Fong)
Chloe Stewart (May)
Linda Balgord (Sophia)




 
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