Bright Sheng - The Silver River

updated 15 August 2002
The Silver River
Muna Tseng (left) as the Goddess-Weaver with baritone Michael Chioldi (right) as the Cowherd, in Spoleto USA's May 2000 performance of "The Silver River."
Photo: Bill Struhs; Courtesy: Spoleto Festival USA 2000
Bright Sheng
The Silver River
Duration: 75'
Text: Libretto by David Henry Hwang. (English)
African-American Actress (Western style), Asian Male Singer (Chinese Opera style), Baritone (Western Opera/Music Theater style), Asian Female Dancer, 2 Dancers
fl(pic,afl), cl(bcl,perc), pipa, perc, vn(perc), vc(perc)
Note: the flutist appears onstage as a male cowherd, the pipa player appears onstage as a goddess-weaver
Theatrical piece.

Critical Acclaim:

Sheng and librettist David Henry Hwang have fashioned a music theater fable of great charm and imagination. The Silver River skillfully fuses eastern and western musical impulses, merging song, speech and movement, with tight percussion-laced rhythms. With a sweet simplicity, their chamber opera creates magic before our eyes.
— John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
Sheng’s slender reworking of his chamber piece The Silver River into a mini-opera melding Chinese and European traditions [is] so tenderly expressive, so elegantly drawn. Sheng used the clipped, clever dialogue in a libretto by Hwang for his metaphorical tale of the mythical river where lovers meet once a year. Characters, à la Chinese theatrical tradition, had onstage counterparts: silent dancer, baritone, Beijing Opera singer [and] pipa player. What could have been a cultural jumble was translated with pristine beauty.
— Will J. Conrad, Opera News


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