There were questions in the minds of many audience members who sat down to watch the opera, "Poet Li Bai," Tuesday night. How can the spirit of an ancient Chinese poet be communicated in the domain of Western opera? The opera premiered in the Chinese capital Tuesday night. It is the only opera at the ongoing Beijing Music Festival and a highlight of the event.
The opening scene drew upon the principal relationship between the poet and his intimate companion: the wine gourd. The prodigy in Li Bai sprang out in many enduring poems following bouts of drinking. It's the opera's debut in China, three months after its world premiere at the Central City Opera in Colorado.
Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai is such a prominent literary figure that almost all educated Chinese can recite his poems. So to capture the imagination of the Chinese, obviously is much more difficult than doing so with an American audience, unschooled in his works. Composer and librettists had to grasp the essence of a complex, highly spiritual nature.
Guo Wenjing, composer of opera "Poet Li Bai", said, "We approach the figure poetically. It's not plot oriented. Except Li Bai, all main characters, including the wine, the Moon and the poems are virtual, personalized figures. Li Bai is actually doing monologues when he communicates with these figures. I hope audiences can be drawn back to a remote dynasty and to enter into the inner world of an ancient Chinese intellectual."