Not one, but two important premieres will take place this winter: at the Met, Tan Dun’s The First Emperor; at LaMama, Concrete, by Robert Ashley. Uptown, downtown, each with its own hero. In passing, Meredith Monk just had a performance of her Book of Days, Panda Chant and Astronaut Anthem in Montclair, NJ at the Kasser Theater. The Robert Ashley piece promises the usual participants: his son Sam Ashley, Thomas Buckner, Jacqueline Humbert, Tom Hamilton and himself. This will have five performances from January 17 through 21. Tickets are $15 and $20, box office is 212-475-7710.

Tan Dun’s The First Emperor is a very important event at the Met – they don’t usually present more than one new opera each season, even though I keep saying they should do more… This series of performances features Placido Domingo himself. It is a co-production with the Los Angeles Opera. The live broadcast is scheduled for January 13, so that’s a date for your calendar… A logical choice, Tan Dun will also conduct his opera. He not only wrote the music but collaborated on the Ha Jin libretto as well. The production is staged by the acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou.

I loved Tan Dun’s Marco Polo for its use of Chinese instruments and elements of Chinese opera, and I expect to hear some of his surprising orchestrations including Chinese and Western instruments. I only wish that the subject of the opera was about the Chinese king who finalized the I Ching while in captivity (well maybe that’s more of a subject for me –I have only been using the wisdom of the I Ching for some 40 years) Interestingly I met a number of young Chinese people for whom the I Ching was very obscure… not ‘in’ the culture, obviously, for the living Chinese. Anyhow, the libretto for The First Emperor is a piece of Chinese history and I am sure it will be more interesting that Turandot. For tickets and information, call 212-362-6000.

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