Back Story of the Making of Dream of the Red Chamber
During the weekend before the opening of the revival of Dream of the Red Chamber, CHF executive director Pearl Lam Bergad, joined Joanna Lee, SFO special DRC marketing consultant, in an online conversation about how this opera came into being. This live zoom meeting was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Society, ????, an organization founded by a group of Silicon Valley professionals during the pandemic. It is dedicated to producing informative discussions on topics in the arts, public health, and US China relations.
Conducted in mandarin Chinese, Bergad recalled the origin of this venture as a spontaneous spark of inspiration in a conversation with a good friend, Linda Hoeschler, who had an extensive history of commissioning new works and who had studied and loved the novel in college. The idea of commissioning a grand opera based on this novel began to take root. With the recommendation of a mutual friend, John Nuechterlein, president of the American Composers Forum, CHF engaged Kevin Smith, a recently retired president of the Minnesota Opera, to be its consultant in push the idea forward. Smith, who had wide contacts in the opera world, was soon in touch with David Gockley, then general director of San Francisco Opera. Right away, Gockley was very interested in the idea and saw its strong potential in engaging the Chinese community in San Francisco. A partnership was soon born and the selection of an all-Chinese artistic team of composer Bright sheng, librettist David Henry Hwang, stage director Stan Lai, and set and costume designer Tim Yip followed. CHF committed itself to underwrite the commissioning fee of both Sheng and Hwang. Two years later, a festive celebration introducing two arias from the new opera took place in Minneapolis to a full house of donors. That festive atmosphere was carried over to the world premiere presentation by SF Opera the following September 2016.
Joanna Lee gave brief introductions of each member of the artistic team and described the huge efforts SF Opera made in reaching out to the Chinese community. There was tremendous excitement among the Chinese, and they turned out in huge numbers to attend the world premiere production in September 2016. The excitement carried over to the premieres in Hong Kong, Beijing, Changsha, and Wuhan.
The meeting ended amidst an excited expression of enthusiasm among the leadership of the Silicon Valley Society, looking forward to the revival opening the following week.
To view this conversation, please visit https://youtu.be/67Lnwhn9Tto