18 April 2011
Zhou Long's Madame White Snake Awarded 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music
Madame White Snake, an opera by Chinese-born American composer Zhou Long, which was commissioned by Opera Boston and received its world premiere at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in February 2010, has been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Described by the Pulitzer committee as a "deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West," Madame White Snake, which features a libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs, was inspired by an ancient Chinese transformation myth wherein a white snake demon surrenders her immortality and becomes human in order to experience love. Following its world premiere in Boston, an expanded version of the opera premiered in October 2010 at Beijing's Century Theatre as part of the Beijing International Festival.
Reviewing the opera in the June 2010 issue of OPERA NEWS, Kalen Ratzlaff deemed the work "remarkable," and wrote: "Giving voice to sweeping melodies worthy of Puccini without sounding imitative, and employing such vocal effects as bent pitches, slides and Sprechstimme to suggest the unique idiom of Peking Opera, [Zhou] wove both aesthetics into a unique whole, creating a vivid and freestanding musical world of his own."
"I felt the opera is a reflection of all my works combined," which includes music written for Chinese ensembles as well as Western orchestras and choruses, Zhou is quoted as saying. "I’m not following fashions. I don’t reject anything. I look at everything equally."
Zhou, 57, began studying music at an early age but was exiled to a rural state-run farm during the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, he formally resumed his musical studies at the Beijing Central Conservatory and, following his graduation in 1983, was appointed as the composer-in-residence for China's National Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra. In 1985, he traveled to the United States with a compositional fellowship to Columbia University, where he received a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in 1993.
In 2002, Zhou served as the composer-in-residence of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's Silk Road Project Festival, and, from 2004-2005, served as composer-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Zhou, who has been a United States Citizen since 1999, is currently Visiting Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music.
More information can be found at The Pulitzer Prizes, MadameWhiteSnake.org, WGBH.org, the Washington Post and the OPERA NEWS Archives.
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