From Santa Fe to Shanghai: what's new with Huang Ruo

From Santa Fe to Shanghai: what's new with Huang Ruo

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall has just announced their summer season for the 10th Music in the Summer Air Festival (MISA), which includes Huang Ruo’s new version of his Folk Songs for Orchestra. The frequently performed symphonic work now features an additional song, “Little Blue Flower,” and Sir Andrew Davis will lead the premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra not only in Tianjin but also with further July performances in Nanjing and Shanghai.

Folk Songs for Orchestra (2012/2019)

1. Flower drum song 2. Love song 3. Little blue flower 4. Girl from the Da Ban City
version for large orchestra - - 2perc - str
version for chamber orchestra - - 2perc - str
Duration: 16’
World premiere (complete version): Tianjin, 02.07.2019

Picture of Sir Andrew Davis, credit Dario Acosta Photography
Sir Andrew Davis


BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (cond.); Grand Theatre, Tianjin

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (cond.); Jiangsu Theatre for the Performing Arts, Nanjing

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (cond.); Symphony Hall, Shanghai

Digital sheet music

A score of Folk Songs for Orchestra is available on nKoda.
View on nkoda
This announcement comes on the heels of Santa Fe Opera’s upcoming season preview, which features a world premiere in August 2020 of the Chinese-born American composer’s new opera M. Butterfly. Using the real-life tale of the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicut and Peking opera singer Shi Pei Pu, David Henry Hwang will adapt his Tony Award-winning play for the opera stage to “allow this story to take wing, more beautifully and powerfully than ever before.”

M. Butterfly (2019)

Opera in three acts
Libretto: David Henry Hwang
S.Ct.T.Bar.Bbar.Vocal ensemble - 2fl.2ob.2cl.2bsn.2hrn.2tpt.2trb.tba2perc.str
World premiere: Santa Fe Opera, 2020
Duration: 120’ (with 1 intermission)

Watch the announcement video here: 

While preparations are already underway for the upcoming premieres in Shanghai and Santa Fe, the past season has been just as busy, with the latest staging of Huang Ruo’s Bound in New York City, a co-production between the Baruch Performing Arts Center and Fresh Squeezed Opera Company. The chamber opera, which first premiered in 2014 at the Houston Grand Opera, tells the story of 17-year-old Diane Tran’s real-life courtroom case and can also be performed as a double-bill with the 2014 version of Ruo’s other opera An American Soldier.

Bound (2014) 

Chamber opera in one act 
Libretto: Bao-Long Chu
1. version: ensemble of 6 musicians with one Vietnamese instrumentalist Bau.Dan Tranh (or pipa)
2. version: chamber orchestra of 13 musicians Bau.Dan Tranh (or pipa)
World Premiere: Houston, 15.02.2014
Duration: 50’ (without intermission)

Picture of Huang Ruo's 'Bound' at the Baruch Performing Arts Center
Bound at the Baruch Performing Arts Center

Press Quotes

The score is the strong point of “Bound.” Though many composers meld Asian and Western elements in their music, Mr. Huang does so with such confidence and elegance that you hardly notice the mingling. His is a distinctive voice, spiked by cluster-like harmonies, at once piercing and ethereal, and squiggly rhythmic riffs. Played here in an arrangement for 10 instruments, including Chinese pipa (conducted surely by Alex Wen), the instrumental sounds suggest the heaving, pummeling emotional subtext of the story, as the characters sing Mr. Huang’s urgent vocal lines, shifting from dramatic exhortation to moments of poignant lyrical reflection.
The New York Times, 18.04.2019

Conductor Alex Wen expertly drew a mix of mood-setting sounds, Chinese and Western, from his unconventional ensemble, and supported the singers admirably. David Bengali’s still and video projections on all those hanging shirts added visual interest and occasionally scene-expanding content, as when the real Diane Tran was seen in a video loop being led into a courtroom by police officers.
New York Classical Review, 16.04.2019

Composer Huang Ruo has a special touch in combining the harmonics of East and West. He can suggest the separate identities and then weave them together as the worlds meet. His trombone tones provide a textural bass to what is an ugly story. The clarinet often sings. The violin can irritate as the world grinds on without a satisfactory answer. The classic Asian pipa (aka the Chinese lute) comes in to reflect both Tran's delicacy and strength. Huang Ruo's greatest asset is in composing a difficult story in music. It is a pleasure to watch him do this over and over. 
Berkshire Fine Arts, 16.04.2019

Digital sheet music

Scores and libretto of Bound are available on nKoda.
View on nkoda

Photo: Wenjun Miakoda, Dario Acosta Photography, Whitney George