The AOP-developed opera Paradise Interrupted received favorable press when it premiered at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC this past week. Drawing inspiration from the legend of Adam and Eve, as well as the Chinese story of The Peony Pavilion, Paradise Interrupted combines strong visual and aural effects, to tell the moving story of a woman’s journey towards self-realization. Combining composer Huang Ruo (Dr. Sun Yat-sen), visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma (opening and closing ceremonies of Olympics Beijing 2008), and singer Qian Yi (Peony Pavilion), this riveting production has critics raving about a new genre of opera: installation opera.
Adam Parker of the Charleston Post and Courier praised the production, calling it “an original work that beautifully blends Eastern and Western styles and presents five fine singers with remarkable stamina and expression.” He also states: “had there been no music at all, just the staging, this would have been a marvelous, immersive experience. But there was music, fascinating music, lyrical, often rhythmic music.”
At the Spoleto Journal, Jerry Bowles, raved about Jennifer Wen Ma’s stunning visual effects: “Set against an ever changing backdrop of abstract digital images that reflect the singer’s mood shifts, the garden that greets the audience of Paradise Interrupted is an assemblage of laser-cut paper painted with black ink that is unfolded, accordian-like, and closed up again by the performers throughout the drama. The effect is that the garden appears to move in response to the singers’ voices.”
Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal says that” composer Huang Ruo and the artist Jennifer Wen Ma “have gloriously fused Western and Chinese idioms, modernity and tradition, to create a mesmerizing new work that is part opera, part dynamic art installation.” She also compliments that”Mr. Huang’s music for The Woman takes off from the melismatic, pitch-bending, slightly nasal kunqu vocal style, and makes it even more haunting and melodic.”
At Charleston City Paper, Elizabeth Pandolfi raves that it “…is a courageous, unique, and complicated piece of theater.” She also goes on to compliment the opera’s success in blending traditional Chinese singing and stories with Western musical elements: “The orchestra, consisting of both Western and Chinese instruments, was exceptional, and together Qian and the four male singers — she sang in the Chinese operatic style, and the men in the Western style — created a surreal, otherworldly sound that completely embodied the dream-like world the Woman was wandering through”