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Recorded live in The Astor Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on  November 30
Click here for the full transcript

"When the sound of the birds and water came back it was so dramatic I thought to myself 'My god, this is opera... This is why they used to perform opera in the garden, instead of on a stage."

——Tan Dun

Chinese composer

"He [Tan Dun] has really transformed world music by his amazing integration and blending of Western and Eastern traditional music, the blending of classical with contemporary musical form."

Maxwell K. Hearn Director of Asia Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

- Yue Meiti's Version
- Hua Wenyi's Version
Did You Know
Artists The Astor Court Kunqu Opera
Tan Dun
Huang Doudou
Zhang Jun
Actor portraying hero Liu Mengmei
Inspired by Brooke Russell Astor, who spent part of her childhood in China, The Astor Court and its adjoining reception room featuring Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) hardwood furniture opened to the public in 1981, a gift of the Vincent Astor Foundation.

Modeled on a seventeenth-century courtyard in the Garden of the Master of the Fishing Nets in Suzhou, the court was entirely constructed using traditional tools and techniques. An eighteenth-century imperial kiln was reopened to fire the ceramic tiles; rare nan wood was hand-planed into columns; specimen Taihu rocks were used for the rockeries, and a granite terrace was hand chiseled from a Suzhou quarry.

While shadow puppetry is the latest Chinese item to make the UNESCO list, Kunqu Opera was the first to be inscribed onto it in 2001. Efforts to invigorate this ancient art have already been rewarded.

"As a living performing art, Kunqu Opera should be constantly developed with the changes in real life," said Dong Wei, Director of the Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture, at a meeting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kunqu Opera's listing in Beijing in 2011.

With a history of over 600 years, Kunqu Opera is known as the mother of all operas in China. The opera sounds hauntingly graceful. It features good control of the voice and rhythm. When performed, the opera is accompanied by various kinds of traditional Chinese musical instruments. However, this ancient performing art was on the verge of extinction before 2001.

Peony Reborn
Celebrated Chinese composer Tan Dun brings a Kunqu opera classic The Peony Pavilion to New York audiences with a modern retelling
- Ballet Version of The Peony Pavilion
The adapted ballet version of The Peony Pavilion, the first of its kind, can be seen as a sort of exploration
- Reviving Kunqu
Pai Hsien-yung's adaption of The Peony Pavilion elaborates on aesthetics involved in stage design, script adaptation and shooting
- About The Peony Pavilion
A love story of the lovesick maiden Du Liniang and the scholar Liu Mengmei
Zhu Wanjin, Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of China in New York

"This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-U.S. diplomatic relations. It is very valuable, at this moment, to bring the most well-known classical work of Kunqu Opera in China to the stage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York--the world's cultural center ... This is undoubtedly a successful starting point for the traditional Chinese opera to gain popularity among western audiences."

Zhang Ran, Actress portraying heroine Du Liniang

"The stage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is much smaller than the one at Zhujiajiao (a naturalistic garden in Shanghai). We are much closer to the audience in [the New York Met's] Astor Court. Every movement and expression on our faces and in our eyes is closely observed by the audience, which is a greater challenge for us."


"The Astor Court seemed ideal for this intimate tale and its delicate instrumentation. Mr. Tan's interpolations enhanced the musical palette with a different, insinuating color, emphasizing the dreamy, supernatural character of the work."

"The garden version hews far more closely to the traditional opera, with just a few snippets of Mr. Tan's more Western-inspired music tucked seamlessly into its flow."

The Wall Street Journal

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Useful Links
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- U.S.-China Cultural Institute
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