This haunting and beautiful creation by one of the world’s most innovative composers will be on stage at the Queen E Theatre for four performances from May 4 to 11. marking the third production in North America and the fifth production worldwide.
The story takes place in ancient Japan. Seikyo, a prince by birth, tells his fellow monks the story of how he came to the temple. Years earlier, in China, seeking to marry Princess Lan, Seikyo confronts her jealous brother, the Prince, and must answer his challenge: find The Book of Tea and reveal its secret wisdom.
In the distant south, Lu, daughter of the Tea Sage, relinquishes the book on the condition that Seikyo and Lan vow to spread its truth throughout the world. Before they can read it, the Prince attacks Seikyo, and Lan is killed when she intervenes. The grief-stricken Prince offers himself in sacrifice, but Seikyo declines, choosing instead to cut off his own hair and take a monk’s vow.
Sung in English with English SURTITLES™, this highly theatrical and visually stunning production is charged with eroticism, ritual, and poetry. The score combines natural sounds with a traditional western orchestra. Bowls of water, sheets of paper, ceramic, stone and other natural materials are ‘played’ along with a 40-plus piece orchestra, conducted by VO’s Music Director Jonathan Darlington. The result is trance-like, lyrical, beautiful and extraordinary.
In Opera Magazine, Michael Davidson recounts the 2002 European premiere: “The central love story, of the Japanese monk Seikyo and the Chinese princess Lan, is presented with so much poetry that by comparison the world of Romeo and Juliet seems very rough-and-tumble indeed.”
Baritone Chen-Ye Yuan will sing Seikyo, the Japanese monk whose search for The Book of Tea is the subject of the opera. Mr. Yuan last sung with Vancouver Opera in the 2010 Canadian premiere of Nixon in China. “Chen-Ye Yuan’s Chou En-lai was remarkable for both the gravity of his portrayal and the voluptuous beauty of his singing,” raved the Globe and Mail.
Described as “enthralling” by Opera News, soprano Nancy Allen Lundy will sing the role of Lan, the Chinese princess betrothed to Seikyo. Ms. Lundy created the role of Lan for the 2002 world premiere of Tea: A Mirror of Soul in Tokyo.
Roger Honeywell will reprise his role of Prince, which he sung in Opera Philadelphia’s 2010 production and in the 2007 North American premiere with the Santa Fe Opera. The Toronto-based tenor was last seen on the VO stage in December 2012′s The Pirates of Penzance, in the role of Frederic.
Bass Kirk Eichelberger will sing the Emperor. Mr Eichelberger was last seen on the VO stage in 2008′s Rigoletto.
Mezzo-soprano Ning Liang will sing the roles of both Lu and The Ritualist. Ms. Liang has appeared in three different productions of Tea: A Mirror of Soul and co-created the role of the Shaman in Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera. This will be her Vancouver Opera debut.
Paul Peers will direct the production. Mr. Peers was Assistant Director to Amon Miyamoto for the 2007 American premiere of Tea: A Mirror of Soul at Santa Fe Opera. This will also be the director’s first Vancouver Opera appearance.
Tea: A Mirror of Soul
Dates: May 4, 7, 9, 11; all performances at 7:30 pm
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Georgia and Hamilton Streets, Vancouver
Tickets: Via Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre, online, or by phoning 604.683.0222.
All photos by Ken Howard.