Impressions of the West Lake is a modern day opera conceived and directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower), the visionary artist behind the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The production is highlighted by music composed by the Grammy and Golden Globe-winning artist Kitaro.
Impressions of the West Lake represents the latest artistic success in the long, storied career of Kitaro. As a Grammy and Golden Globe award-winning artist, this incredibly prolific composer and performer has continued his reign in the international spotlight and at the forefront of musical innovation ever since the release of his debut solo album, Astral Voyage, in 1978. His numerous recording highlights include 1986's Tenku (his U.S. debut), 1987's The Light of the Spirit (a collaboration with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Kitaro's American breakthrough), as well as Sacred Journey of Ku-kai, a multi-volume series of peace-themed albums inspired by the tragedy of 9/11.
Perhaps the single most significant collaboration on Impressions of the West Lake is between Zhang and the opera's composer, Kitaro. This pairing of East-meets-East is a rare combination of two artists at the peak of their creative talents. The opera also marks a reunion for Kitaro and music arranger Randy Miller, the pair's first effort together since the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to Oliver Stone's 1993 film Heaven and Earth. This opera is another impressive credit for Miller, whose lengthy career as a composer, orchestrator, and conductor for films includes such highlights as Without Limits, First Snow, and The Soong Sisters (Best Original Score, Hong Kong Film Award).
Through the course of his career, Kitaro has sold millions of albums, cd's and DVD's worldwide. Kitaro's various sound collaborations and resonant, multi-textured compositions, with their crescendos of passion and oases of serenity, truly defy the constraints of any genre. His pioneering fusion of cultures, techniques and spheres of consciousness is truly his own. With Impression: West Lake, Kitaro continues to explore new, uncharted terrain with his magnificently expansive vision and ever-questing spirit.
More on Impressions of the West Lake - Zhang is known internationally by his film work, the awe-inspiring 2008 Olympic ceremonies (viewed worldwide by several billion people) introduced a vast new audience to Zhang's impressive work in the realm of live musical and dance productions. The Olympic performances were but a mere taste of the splendor that lies in store for viewers of the Opera. Impressions of the West Lake is a breathtaking spectacular of light, dance, and water effects. This work is the latest in an ongoing series of outdoor musical events, which will dazzle to complement, through sound and image, the beautiful majesty of China's natural landscape. The latest Production in the Impression series has been showcased in the town of Yangshuo, near the Li River in the Guangxi province (Impression: Liu Sanjie) and at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (also known as Yulong Mountain) near Lijiang in the Yunnan province (Impression: Lijiang). Impression: West Lake might very well be the most ambitious of these productions to date. It represents nothing short of a soaring imagination, a piece of art that is not only historically and culturally meaningful, but whose beauty transcends the barriers of language and history to appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers, united by the immense sense of wonder it imparts.
The opera tells the story of the city of Hangzhou (known as "the paradise under heaven"), located on the shore of West Lake, one of China's most famous fresh water lakes, in the Zhejiang province. In the 13th century, famed explorer Marco Polo deemed Hangzhou to be "the most splendid and luxurious city in the world." Zhang's production has brought increased tourism to the city of Hangzhou and entertained travelers from all around the world with its energy and vitality. West Lake itself has long been famous for inspiring countless generations of Chinese artists and poets--Zhang's production is simply the latest example of that inspiration. The lake and its surroundings are as much an element--a character--of the production, as they are its backdrop. Surrounded on three sides by cascading mountains, the environs provide a stately background to the performance. And the area's unique climate routinely alters the lake's appearance, so that each show is entirely unique and impossible to duplicate.
Through a seamless combination of music and dance, sound and image, the legends of South China come alive in Impressions of the West Lake, along with the essence of Hangzhou's history and culture. While colored lights dance against the night sky, the show's performers dance atop the surface of the lake in five episodes: Making Acquaintance, Falling in love, Parting, Memory and Impression. These episodes tell the story of the White Lady Snake and Xu Xian, an ancient love story, as well as the tragic tale of the Butterfly Lovers, and the life story of the famed Chinese hermit, Lin Fu.
The Opera plays regularly to sell-out audiences. From the start, the show was meticulously designed to be as minimally invasive to its environment as possible. The result is an extremely green production. Zhang's opera is performed on the surface of the lake itself, on a specially constructed stage, in front of the Yue Fei Temple. During the day, this "invisible" stage resides 75 centimeters below the lake's surface, raised to 3 centimeters below the surface for each performance. This allows the opera's infrastructure to remain intact over the long-term without compromising the lake's radiance or interfering with boating activities on the lake. In addition, this unique design provides for the stunning visual of the show's hundreds of performers appearing to dance directly on the water's surface. Additionally, the production has pioneered an individualized sound system, in order to prevent noise pollution on the lake.
Zhang's collaborators on Impressions of the West Lake includes two co-directors, Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue. Wang is a stage director well known in China for the show China National Spirit, staged in the People's Great Hall in 1995, while the multi-award winning Fan is a dancing-art designer and director in the General Political Singing-Dancing Troupe. The show's soundtrack also features rising Chinese pop star Jane Zhang, a gifted young performer who provides stunning vocals to the production. The singer emerged from the 2005 season of the Super Girl contest, a national all-female singing competition in China, where she placed third. She is widely admired for her ability to sing in the high-pitched whistle register, as well as for flawlessly performing songs in several languages, including English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin Chinese.