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Tan Dun's The First Emperor returns to Metropolitan Opera
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Composer Tan Dun's epic opera The First Emperor, which had its world premiere at New York's Metropolitan Opera last season, returns to the stage Saturday for the first of three performances.

Inspired by the musical languages of both East and West, The First Emperor weaves a tale of friendship, love and betrayal around the visionary but brutal historical leader who unified ancient China and began construction of the Great Wall in the third century BC, according to a press release.

Tenor Placido Domingo reprises his acclaimed portrayal of Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor.

Tan Dun, who co-wrote the English-language libretto with award-winning Chinese novelist Ha Jin, returns to conduct.

The production is by film director Zhang Yimou. Wang Chaoge co-directed the original staging and Dou Dou Huang is the choreographer as well as the solo dancer. Peter McClintock is stage director for the revival.

Tan Dun has made revisions to the work since its premiere last season.

"I had three essential aims in mind when making changes to The First Emperor," he said, adding that he wanted to enlarge the traditional Chinese elements: the Peking Opera-style scenes and the character of the Shaman.

The title character of The First Emperor was Placido Domingo's first world premiere role at the Met, a major presenter of all types of opera in New York.

The First Emperor is based on Historical Records by Sima Qian (145 BC-85 BC) and on The Legend of the Bloody Zheng, a screenplay by Lu Wei. In 221 BC, the ruler of Qin, a western province, united the warring states of China for the first time and proclaimed himself emperor, taking the name Shi Huangdi, or "first emperor." As founder of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC), this controversial figure established the basis for the Chinese empire that would survive for 2,000 years.

The Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company's repertory. The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.

(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2008)

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