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Alice in Wonderland, Unsuk Chin's operatic realisation of Lewis Carroll's classic book, travelled to St Louis for its US premiere in June.

Unsuk Chin’s opera Alice in Wonderland received its US premiere in June in a new staging by the Opera Theatre of St Louis, combining clear storytelling with highly imaginative stagecraft and video projection. The St Louis Post Despatch praised James Robinson’s production for its “air of calculated lunacy” and soprano Ashley Emerson as “perfectly cast in the title role. She’s an adorable Alice who whips off coloratura and cartwheels with equal aplomb and displays a fine sense of humour.”

The St Louis production follows stagings in Munich (also filmed for DVD by Unitel), Geneva and Bielefeld, and was heard in a new reduced orchestration. With double woodwind and more modest brass, percussion and string forces, the new alternative scoring makes the opera performable in smaller houses. Tasters from the opera are also available to orchestras and ensembles in the form of two suites: snagS&Snarls for soprano and orchestra (13 minutes) and Scenes from Alice in Wonderland for soprano, mezzo and orchestra (40 minutes).

“One of the leading figures in contemporary music, the Korean-born, Berlin-based composer shares many traits with her teacher György Ligeti, and her music is both highly complex and mesmerizing in its sonorities. Ligeti himself once toyed with the idea of an operatic Alice, and in fulfilling this project Chin has written one of the most significant of recent new operas.”

“…a nightmare journey that constantly throws both the heroine and the audience off balance. Like a super-G-force roller coaster, it’s weirdly and perversely fun… The vocal writing is full of outrageous swoops and leaps, some of it in Sprechstimme, and its jittery, upside-down quality is mirrored and echoed in the layered, twittering, percussive orchestration. Once in a while, Ms. Chin throws in pure lyricism, as when a children’s chorus sings a breathtakingly beautiful setting of the Mock Turtle’s lament, Beautiful Soup; the contrast is all the more startling.”
Wall Street Journal

Chin’s future projects include a work to be premiered by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group in February, and a new score for voice and orchestra commissioned by Roche for the 2014 Lucerne Festival to be premiered by Barbara Hannigan and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra under Simon Rattle.

>  Further information on Work: Alice in Wonderland

Photo: Opera Theatre of St Louis/Ken Howard

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