BWW Opera News: Du Yun's ANGEL'S BONE Wins 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music

BWW Opera News: Du Yun's ANGEL'S BONE Wins 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music
Photo: Cory Weaver for the 2016 Prototype Festival

ANGEL'S BONE, by Du Yun with a libretto by Royce Vavrek was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

The opera--a bold work that that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world--debuted on January 6, 2016 at the Prototype Festival, 3LD Arts and Technology Center in New York.

The $15,000 prize is awarded "for distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year."

BWW Opera News: Du Yun's ANGEL'S BONE Wins 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music
Composer Du Yun (right) and
librettist Royce Vavrek

It was originally commissioned by the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, while its completion was co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE. It was co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and Trinity Wall Street and co-presented at Prototype 2016 with 3LD Art & Technology Center.

According to the Prototype Festival website, ANGEL'S BONE is told through Royce Vavrek's riveting libretto and Du Yun's eclectic music: part chamber music, theatre, pop music, opera, cabaret, and involving visual arts and noise, forming a harmonious and moving piece.

It follows the plight of two fallen angels whose nostalgia for earthly delights finds them far from heaven. They are found battered and bruised by a man and his wife, known only as Mr. and Mrs. X.E., who have longed for a better life than their modest middle-class status and bring them into their home and set out to nurse them back to health: they bathe them, wash the dirt from their nails...then lock them in the root cellar and decide that this is their chance to be wealthy and legendary.

Du Yun, born and raised in Shanghai, China, currently based in New York, is a composer, multi-instrumentalists, performance artist, activist and curator for new music, working at the intersection of orchestral, opera, chamber music, theatre, cabaret, oral tradition, public performances, sound installation, electronics and noise.

Hailed by The New York Times as a leading figure in China's new generation of composers, Du Yun's music has been championed by notable performing artists, ensembles, orchestras and organizations in major venues. These include the Seattle Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Festival d'Avignon, Darmstadt Germany, Musica Nova Helsinki, Salle Playel Paris, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, RedCat (LA), Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), Wigmore Hall London, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Philharmonie Luxembourg, BAM NextWave, Centro Nacional De la Música (Argentina), the Camerata Aberta of Brazil, Aspekte Salzburg, Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Whitney Museum, Berkeley Symphony, International Contemporary Ensemble, Asia Society New York & Hong Kong, Shanghai Symphony Hall.

Librettist Vavrek has collaborated with such other major composers as Missy Mazzoli (SONG FROM THE UPROAR: THE LIVES AND DEATHS OF ISABELLE EBERHARDT, BREAKING THE WAVES and the upcoming PROVING UP); David T. Little (VINKENSPORT OR THE FINCH OPERA, DOG DAYS and JFK) and Ricky Ian Gordon (27 and the upcoming THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE, for the Houston Grand Opera), among numerous others.

Others nominated as finalists for this year's Pulitzer in Music in 2017 were :

Ashley Fure's Bound to the Bow, which premiered on June 5, 2016 at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, which took its inspiration from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Kate Soper's Ipsa Dixit, which premiered on December 9, 2016, at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, exploring the relationships between idea and expression, meaning and language.

The jury included Carol J. Oja (Chair), William Powell Mason Professor of Music, Harvard University; John V. Brown, Jr., Director of the Jazz Program and Associate Professor of the Practice of Music, Duke University. Jennifer Higdon (a past Pulitzer Prize winner), Composer, Philadelphia, PA; Alex Ross, Music Critic, The New Yorker; and Evan Ziporyn, Director, Center for Art, Science & Technology and Kenan Sabin Distinguished Professor of Music, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Among others involved in the 2016 Prototype Production:

Music Direction by Julian Wachner
Directed by Michael McQuilken

Scenic Design by Matt Saunders
Lighting Design by Yi Zhao
Costume Design by Kate Fry
Projections Designer Hannah Wasileski
Choregrapher Christy Lee
Stage Manager Catherine Costanzo
Production Manager Karen Walcott, James Fry
Line Producer Katie Naka
Sound Engineer Jay Eigenmann
Assistant Stage Manager Cressa Amundsen
Assistant Conductor Samuel McCoy
Rehearsal Pianist/Vocal Coach Mila Henry
Assistant Director/Supertitles Anne Cecelia Haney

Cast
Mrs. X.E. - Abigail Fischer
Mr. X.E. - Kyle Pfortmiller
Girl Angel - Jennifer Charles
Boy Angel - Kyle Bielfield

Featuring the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY

Additional Credits:
Choir of Trinity Wall Street: Eric Brenner, Tomas Cruz, Clifton Massey, Thomas McCargar, Scott Mello, Molly Netter, Timothy Parsons, Melanie Russell, Jonathan Woody

Novus NY: Thomas Bergeron (Trumpet), Stuart Breczinski (Oboe), Adam Cockerham (Lute), David Cossin (Percussion), Anna Elashvili (Violin), Catherine Rose Gregory (Flute), Stephanie Griffin (Viola), Chris Gross (Cello), Moran Katz (Clarinet), Ian Rosenbaum (Percussion), Ben Vokits (Tuba)

Video Engineer Jonathan Brenner
Master Electrician Justin Nardecchia
Set Construction Jackie Denise Young
Costume Construction Julia Bowers, Karen Boyer, Anjia Jalac, Marea Judilla
Music Librarian Harrison Joyce

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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.