Visiting Professor of Composition Zhou Long to have World Premiere of New Opera


The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance is pleased to announce that internationally renowned composer Zhou Long will premiere his new opera Madame White Snake at Opera Boston, February 2010.  It is the company’s first commissioned work. Madame White Snake by Zhou Long and librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs is based on a beloved ancient Chinese legend. Co-commissioned by Opera Boston and the Beijing Music Festival (BMF), it is the first world premiere by the BMF and an American company. Madame White Snake will have three performances (Feb. 26, 28, and March 2, 2010) at Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre and two performances in Beijing, October 2010. Planning has begun to bring Madame White Snake to several Chinese cities following the Chinese premiere in Beijing; the proposed tour is the first by an American opera company in China since San Francisco’s Western Opera Company in 1987.  State Street Corporation is presenting the education and outreach programs. 


Zhou Long’s Madame White Snake is one of just four world premieres by U.S. opera companies in the 2009–10 season. Opera Boston Music Director Gil Rose will conduct and Robert Woodruff will direct. Soprano Ying Huang will sing the title role, and male soprano Michael Maniaci will sing the role of Xiao Qing.


Conservatory Dean Peter Witte notes, “Madame White Snake is a visionary work and the Conservatory celebrates Zhou Long’s vital role in the project.   Together with Zhou Long, Opera Boston and the Beijing Music Festival embrace one of the most exciting cultural relationships of our century; the intersection of East and West.”


“We are very proud to announce this major opera commission and multi-cultural production, Madame White Snake by Zhou Long and Cerise Lim Jacobs,” said Carole Charnow, Opera Boston’s General Director. “This project marks many historic firsts, Opera Boston’s first major commission, our first collaboration with an international music organization and, perhaps most significantly, the first collaboration between the Beijing Music Festival and an American opera company. The production will also mark the first time Opera Boston has taken a production to another country.”



Zhou Long, Madame White Snake’s renowned Chinese-American composer, was recently cited by the New York Times as one of the leading Chinese composers, charged with “injecting a new vitality into the American classical music scene.” In 2003, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Zhou Long its Academy Award in Music, recognizing lifetime achievement, saying, “unlike many composers of today working between cultures, Zhou Long has found a plausible, rigorous, and legitimate way of consolidating compositional methods and techniques that allow him to express brilliantly both his experiences as a composer of Western music and his considerable knowledge of his native China. In [his music], Zhou Long displays a stunning (quasi-tactile) orchestral imagination that dramatically demonstrates his skill of embedding elements of the two cultures in a consistent, seamless, and original musical language.”


Cerise Lim Jacobs, Madame White Snake’s Chinese-American librettist, is the creative force behind this pioneering adaptation of the 1,000 year-old Chinese legend. She was born in colonial Singapore into a traditional Chinese family, and she received her degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh and her law degree from Harvard Law School. Now retired from her practice as a trial attorney, she has returned to writing. Madame White Snake is her first opera libretto. She lives in Brookline, Mass.


Robert Woodruff is an internationally acclaimed director of theater and opera who has served as either director or associate artist with some of the country’s most significant crucibles of innovation in the field of performance, including the Eureka Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and the American Repertory Theater. He frequently collaborates with artists such as Rinde Eckert, Philip Glass, Charles Mee, and Sam Shepard and is among the foremost international directors of Shakespeare and Brecht. Woodruff’s work has been seen in festivals in Edinburgh, Spoleto, Sydney, Jerusalem, and Brooklyn. 


Madame White Snake, a classical transformation myth, is the story of a powerful white snake demon that transforms into a beautiful woman to experience love. She meets her true love, Xu Xian (sung by tenor Peter Tantsits), at the Broken Bridge on the West Lake in Hangzhou, and marries him. So widely celebrated is their love that a curious Abbot (bass Dong-Jian Gong) investigates. He sees through her human form to the snake. When the Abbot learns that Madame White Snake is pregnant, he is horrified by what he considers a violation of all of the traditional taboos of race and religion, the divine and the profane. He decides to intervene and confronts her husband. Madame White Snake is betrayed by her husband and in the moment of betrayal, she is tragically transformed back into a snake.


About the Conservatory: The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance has earned national and international recognition through its music and dance performance, composition, teaching and scholarship. The most comprehensive music and dance educational center in the Midwest since 1906, the Conservatory boasts more than 80 faculty widely recognized as world-class scholars, artists, teachers and leaders in their fields. For more information visit

About Opera Boston:  Opera Boston is Boston’s most innovative opera company. Founded in 1980, the company has presented more than 70 operas, including 34 regional and two world premieres.  In addition to its critically acclaimed, award-winning main stage productions, Opera Boston offers a range of programs, including an occasional chamber opera festival, a popular informal cabaret series and an extensive educational program in Boston-area schools. For more information, visit


About Beijing Music Festival:  The Beijing Music Festival’s (BMF) mission is to promote the musical life in Beijing by organizing annual festivals and providing musical performances by artists of the highest caliber. The month-long Festival has been held every year since fall, 1998, presenting 30 performances each season. World-renowned artists such as Jose Carreras, Valery Gergiev, Fou Ts’ong, Simon Rattle, Christoph Eschenbach, Lang Lang, Jian Wang and Yo-Yo Ma have all performed at the Festival. The Festival features opera, symphonic and chamber music, musicals, and jazz performances. Encouraging both Western and Chinese contemporary music makes the Beijing Music Festival unique among other international music festivals. BMF has premiered the works of Western contemporary composers Krzysztof Penderecki, Philip Glass, John Corigliano and others in China, as well as the works of Chinese contemporary composers Chen Qigang, Tan Dun and Guo Wenjing. Endorsed by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China and the Beijing Municipal Government, BMF has become one of the grandest and most recognized annual cultural events in Asia and attracts artists and audiences from all over the world. For more information, visit  






For more information, please contact:

Name: Dana Self
Phone: 816-235-2949