Opera in the Park 2008
Ana María Martínez in Simon Boccanegra

The Bonesetter's Daughter Panel Discussion

Bonesetters-daughter Kip Cranna moderated a panel discussion on the new opera The Bonesetter's Daughter yesterday evening at Herbst Theatre. The panelists included composer Stewart Wallace, bass Hao Jiang Tian (Chang the Coffin Maker), and suona-player/rock star Wu Tong (Chef, Taoist Priest). There is much excitement surrounding the impending world premiere of the work at San Francisco Opera, only the ninth in the company's history. The evening began with a bunch of plugs for the book the opera is based on, the memoir of the bass, and most interestingly, the book on the making of this opera, Fate! Luck! Chance! by Ken Smith. The latter includes the libretto.

Most of the discussion focused on Wallace, how the project started, how the musical idiom for this particular opera was found, and so forth. Wallace had an interesting quote about how an American audience might think the music sounds Chinese, but that a Chinese audience would find the music rather American. He insisted that the music is American without being Chinoiserie.

We also got to hear how the opera was cast, and how Hao Jiang Tian and Wu Tong were found. We heard a recording of one of Tian's arias, which was promising. There was also a live demonstration of the suona from Wu. The instrument is incredibly loud, piercing, and wobbly. It fit my intial impressions of being much like the zurna, though it was again compared to the oboe, of course.