A journey through space and time?

Tan Dun’s Marco Polo is hugely ambitious. He uses Marco Polo’s legendary journey as a metaphor for Space and Time.  He fuses a range of Western musical styles with Chinese, Tibetan and Indian instruments and vocal styles.  Although most of the work is sung in English there are sections in Italian and Chinese and other bits in a sort of random polyglot.  The cast includes a range of real, allegorical and psychological figures.  Marco and Polo are in fact two characters; one representing action and the external and the other the psychological and internal.  Kublai Khan, Dante, Shakespeare, Sheherazada and Mahler put in appearances and much of the narrative is carried by a Chinese opera singer playing the part of Rustichello; “the questioner”.  To be honest, despite having read the booklet, watched Reiner Moritz’s “Making of” documentary and studied the chart below, most of the time I had no idea what was actually happening.  It’s really all too abstract and involved to really work as music drama.

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