The Phoenix Sings: Musical Poetry Theater
Sunday August 18, 2013  2:00 pm
Sackler Landing Level, Freer and Sackler Galleries
1050 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC (Metro Station: Smithsonian (Mall Exit)

Dreaming of the Phoenix

Story Conceived and Developed by Qian Yi
Music Composed by Du Yun
Music Arrangements by Zhou Ming

Cast Musicians Composers


Synopsis Meet the Artists



Qian Yi  錢熠
  Zhou Yi



Zhou Yi
Flutist: Chen Tao  陳濤
Drums\Percussion: Huang Shirong  黃士榮
Hulusi: Xing Wentao


Composers: Du Yun
  Nelson Zhou

Production Staff

Producer: Tong-Ching Chang  張冬青
Co-producers: Qian Yi 錢熠
  Xing Wentao
Photography: Cindy Rodney
Video Camera: Charles Wilson


1. Arias from kunqu play “The Jade Hairpin (玉簪記)” written by Lian Gao (高濂), Ming dynasty (1368–1644 AD)
2. “The Deer Enclosure(鹿柴)” written by Wang Wei (王維), Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD)
3. “The Shadow of the Plane Tree under the Sunset (梧桐影.落日斜) written by Taoist Lu Tungbin (吕洞賓), the end of Tang dynasty and the Five Dynasty (907 – 960 AD)
4. Qin Music: A Phoenix’s Love Song (琴曲鳳求凰), written by Sima Xianru (司马相如,179 – 118 BC), West Han dynasty (206BC – 9AD).
5. Old style verse “On hearing Tung-lan play “Song of the Tartar pipe: for the government clerk Fang (聽董大彈胡笳兼寄語弄房給事)” written by Li Chi (李颀), Tang dynasty.


The characters are mountain spirits, who have gathered together one evening to play traditional Chinese instruments. During the evening they recite poems and lament of ancient times when a Phoenix had been known to appear. In legendary stories, a phoenix appears only when the world is in a state of harmony and peace. In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is a noble creature that resides on a thousand-year old tree (Chinese parasol) and dines only on bamboo fruit and morning dews. Because it creates a heavenly sound as it flies, it is associated with associated with music. By referencing the Phoenix, the mountain spirits express their desire to emulate this ideal creature and live in its golden age.

By setting the performance the Sackler Galleries, the artists are able to recreate the atmosphere of ancient Chinese scholar tradition, which was a quintessential and fundamental approach to peacefully and harmoniously seeing and capturing the natural world to create and perform music. Musicians sit on the ground casually, surrounded by nature and its organic sounds, with minimum dialogue, exquisite movements and hand gestures. The story is carried mainly by kun opera singing of a group selected Tang dynasty poems with an accompaniment by Chinese classical instruments.

Meet the Artists

Qian Yi began her study of classical kunqu at the Shanghai Drama School at the age of ten and joined the Shanghai Kunju Company after graduation. At the age of twenty, Qian received the Outstanding New Orchid Buds Award, given by the Chinese Ministry of Culture to young performers. In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s epic nineteen-hour production of The Peony Pavilion, which played at major international festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Since coming to the U.S., Ms. Qian has continued to work in classical Chinese theater, while also starring in numerous adaptations of Chinese opera in the context of western theater, including Ghost Lovers (Spoleto USA), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center), and Snow in June (American Repertory Theater). In 2008, Qian Yi made her debut in western opera, singing a leading role in the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter's Daughter. She currently lives in New York.

Du Yun was born and raised in Shanghai, and is currently based in NYC. She is one of the leading composers of her generation. Hailed by the New York Times as “cutting-edge… to whom the term ‘young composer’ could hardly do justice;” “heralds a significant voice” (Financial Times); “re-invents herself daily… so does her music,” (TimeOut-NYC), “…the strongest impression made yet…” (by De Rode Leeuw, Amsterdam), and “impeccably powerful” (by Le Devoir, Montreal), her music exists at an artistic crossroads of orchestral, chamber music, opera, theatre, cabaret, storytelling, pop music, visual arts and noise. NPR has recently voted her as one of 100 composers under 40. Also an avid performer, her onstage persona has been described by the New York Times as “an indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge,” and “flamboyant” by the Chicago Tribune. As well as a performance artist, she has appeared in major exhibitions and art biennials.

Nelson Zhou was educated at the Shanghai School of Traditional Opera. He is a master of the dizi, a bamboo Chinese flute --- the importance of which in the orchestra is equivalent of the first violin in Western orchestral music. He was studied with the masters of Kunju music for the last 20 years, and is widely regarded as the leading Kunju flute player in China. He has performed as the lead musician in over 25 major Kunju for the Shanghai Kunju Opera Company. In addition, he has led music ensembles in Japan and Taiwan as a guest conductor.

Zhou Yi graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. As a concert soloist, Zhou Yi's performances include Tan Dun's Pipa Concerto at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, Germany; Young People's Concert with the New York Philharmonic; Bun-Ching Lam's Pipa Concerto "Song of the Pipa" with the New York Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; and "Sisters of the Grassland" with the Ohio Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. Resent projects include producing a show that was the first to meld eastern music sensibilities with western jazz to form an original hybrid of music; recorded the music for off-broadway productions, David Henry Hwang's "The Dance and the Railroad" and "Around the World in 80 Days"; Carnegie Hall's 2013 Musical Explorer program. Zhou Yi is a co-founder of the Ba Ban Chinese Music Society of New York.

Xing Wentao gradated form New York University, Music Technology program, is a New York-based Producer, Sound Engineer, Composer, Double Bassist, Electronic Bassist, Pianist and Vocalist. Her style of music ranges from instrumental to folk music, to popular genres, to pop music. She has produced concerts in Manhattan School of Music, New York University, Carnegie Hall. She is currently working on Chinese production projects at a leading music mastering studio with two-time Grammy nominee, Alan Silverman, using her production skills to aid Chinese musicians in achieving their dreams and to introduce their stellar skills to a discerning American audience.

Chen Tao is the founder and director of the Melody of Dragon, as well as the artistic director and conductor of the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. He is not only a specialist on the Chinese horizontal bamboo flute (dizi), vertical flute (xiao) and ocarina (xun), he is also a virtuoso performer on other wind instruments such as the bawu, koudi, and chiba. In 1989 he won the first place in the National Folk Instrument competition in China. During a trip to England he collaborated with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and The Orchestra National de Lyon. The New York Times called him a "poet in music" and his playing "a miracle of the oriental flute." While on tour in Germany the maestro Herbert von Karajan praised him as an artist who "performed with his soul."

Huang Shirong is a graduate of the Shanghai Chinese Drama School. Mr. Huang served as the conductor of the Shanghai Beijing Opera Troupe for over thirty years. Several of the productions he conducted as master drummer won national awards in China. He has performed in the U.S.S.R., Japan, and Hong Kong. Mr. Huang was a member of the orchestra for the Lincoln Center production of The Peony Pavilion.