New California opera delights fans, puzzles critics

Fri Oct 24, 2008 3:27pm EDT
 
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By David Lawsky

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Writer Amy Tan's opera "The Bonesetter's Daughter" finished its premiere engagement here recently, but the unusual production fusing European and Chinese tradition has created a buzz that lingers among fans of the art form.

The New York Times, for one, illustrated a recent article about new operas using a photo from the exotic visual spectacle, about a woman who bridges the generational and cultural gap separating her from her mother.

When "Bonesetter's Daughter" opened in September, critics gave it mixed reviews, but audiences were enthusiastic and the opera's creators attended every show during the sold-out run.

"Seeing (audiences) respond is a tremendous emotional experience," said Amy Tan, who with composer Stewart Wallace took several trips to China and spent three years transforming her best-selling novel of the same name into an opera.

"We worked on this so hard and so long," said Wallace. "Every performance is different in detail. The places where people laugh are different."

The opera, based in part on the emotional journey Tan took in dealing with her mother's descent into Alzheimer's disease, tells the story of a San Francisco woman who re-experiences her grandmother's life in China in the 1940s. Ultimately, it helps her understand her own mother's life and come to terms with the elderly woman's dementia.

"Bonesetter's Daughter" drew on the theater, music, singing, musical instruments and dance of China and Europe, blending them with a huge video projection screen that augmented the scenery.

Sometimes so much was happening, the audience didn't now whether to look at the Chinese acrobats flying across stage on wires, the singers or the video screen.   Continued...

 
<p>The cast of the San Francisco Opera's production of "The Bonesetter's Daughter" is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters October 24, 2008. Writer Amy Tan's opera, based in part on the emotional journey Tan took in dealing with her mother's descent into Alzheimer's disease, tells the story of a San Francisco woman who re-experiences her grandmother's life in China in the 1940s. Ultimately, it helps her understand her own mother's life and come to terms with the elderly woman's dementia. REUTERS/Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco</p>