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Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland: premiere in Munich

The Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich unveils Unsuk Chin’s new opera as the opening event of the Munich Opera Festival.

The world premiere of Unsuk Chin’s first opera, Alice in Wonderland, opens the Munich Opera Festival on 30 June. Presented by the Bavarian State Opera, the new work is conducted by the company’s Artistic Director Kent Nagano, a leading champion of Chin’s music, and staged by Achim Freyer. The libretto, based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, has been created by the composer in collaboration with David Henry Hwang, author of the acclaimed and award-winning play M. Butterfly.

The cast for Alice in Wonderland includes Sally Matthews in the title role, Piia Komsi, Dietrich Henschel, Andrew Watts, and a cameo appearance by Dame Gwyneth Jones as the Queen. Following the three Munich Opera Festival performances (30 June/4 July/7 July), the opera returns in the main Munich autumn season (15/17/20/23 November). The Munich performances take place by permission of Los Angeles Opera, who commissioned the work during Kent Nagano’s time as its Music Director.

Lewis Carroll’s surreal dreamlike world, full of curious happenings and black humour, promises to finds a perfect partner in Chin’s music. Kent Nagano writes: “I regard Unsuk Chin as one of the most fascinating voices of our present day; born in Korea, she studied in Germany and lives today in Berlin. Her music can never be pinpointed as having a single, specific style. It remains eternally fresh, original and full of surprises. She mixes and matches well-known parameters, uses rhythm as colour, colour as tempo, interweaves catchy tunes with unexpected harmonies - the ideal artist to give operatic life to the equally zany and philosophical story of Alice on her way through the land of wonders.”

Unsuk Chin discovered Carroll’s Alice stories in South Korea as an adult, partly through references in scientific books exploring the parallels between minds and machines. She was immediately attracted to the multi-layering of the action and its attraction for “different groups of people – regardless of age, education, profession or nationality. It can captivate experts and laymen, children and adults as well. That is also an artistic ideal for me.”

“Already, when I read Alice for the first time, I was fascinated and wholly amazed because I recognized much of what I had seen in my own dreams. I wanted the dreamworld to be the reality in my opera. So, I decided to replace the beginning and the end - with their references to everyday life - with two dream scenes. Apart from these scenes we have used the sequence of the book quite faithfully. But Alice is not solely a matter of dreams – it is also about a clash between the different ways in which we communicate and experience reality.”

Visit the Bavarian State Opera website.

To read an interview with Chin about her new opera, click here.

A 15-minute suite from the opera for soprano and orchestra, entitled snagS & Snarls, has been performed in the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Spain to date. Chin’s next project is a new work to be premiered by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano in March 2008. Her music is featured this autumn at the Settembre Musica festival in Italy, Musica in Strasbourg, and the Venice Biennale.

>  Further information on Work: Alice in Wonderland

Photo: Costume design sketch for Alice in Wonderland by Achim Freyer

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