Chinese born American composer, Zhou Long, won the 2011 Pultizer Prize for Music for his opera Madame White Snake.
Based on a Chinese folk tale, Madame White Snake follows a female snake demon (and remember, “demons” aren’t necessarily evil or bad) who transforms herself into a beautiful woman to experience love (sounds pretty good to me…) Madame White Snake falls deeply in love with a scholar, Xu Xian, and marries him. Their love is “widely celebrated,” motivating a curious Abbot to investigates the truth of Madame White Snake. The Abbot discovers Madame White Snake’s false identity. Realizing Madame White Snake is also pregnant, the Abbot is horrified by what he considers “a violation of all of the traditional taboos of race and religion, the divine and the profane.” The Abbot reveals Madame White Snake’s true identity to her husband and Xu Xian betrays her. Tragically Madame White Snake transforms back into a snake. (For a further synopsis and history of the folk tale Wikipedia is always a good source!)
Sounds a bit like Madame Butterfly doesn’t it? Well, if it is anything like Puccini’s famous opera, then this is going to be incredible! Just read what the Pulitzer jury described the opera as: “a deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West.”
First premiered by the Boston Opera in February 2010, Long will be awarded $10,000 for his Pulitzer Price. Each year the Pulitzer goes to a “distinguished musical composition (not necessarily an opera or symphony…just composition) by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States.”
Although we don’t have a copy of Madame White Snake here at the Music Library (I don’t know if a recording even exists for sale) you can listen to compositions by Zhou Long on CD 5007 and CD 4549, and we’ll let you know if we find a recording!
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