Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

RISE AND FALL.(Journal North Venue)

Byline: Carol Mell * For the Journal

Santa Fe Opera produces the world premiere of "Madame Mao" this summer

"Madame Mao," the first of three new works commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, makes its world premiere this season. The result of an intense collaboration between Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng and the English librettist Colin Graham, "Madame Mao" is opera in the grand style. It tells the tale of a young actress named Jiang Ching who became Madame Mao Tse-Tung and rose to power as one of the architects of the Cultural Revolution, only to have her dream of ruling China end in a jail cell, where she died alone and forgotten.

"Madame Mao" is Sheng's first full-length opera, though he has written several shorter operatic works. Graham, on the other hand, has shaped over 50 new operas, as director and sometime librettist. He will also direct "Madame Mao" in Santa Fe.

Graham said that when Sheng first approached him to write the libretto, he refused.

"I said 'No, I don't believe in political operas. They are all gray, cause gray music and have a very short shelf life,' '' Graham said. "It was only when (Sheng) said he wanted to write a passionate opera about how the young and ambitious actress became a soul-less Lady Macbeth that I got interested. …

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