Intrepid music lovers should head North on 95, cut over onto 76 and head into Center City Philly for action. First gem: Opera Company of Philadelphia. This is the only East Coast company, so far as I know, with the balls and the budget to invite Chinese composer Tan Dun to conduct his own opera, Tea: A Mirror of Soul.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a front row seat for the Feb. 21 performance by a very awesome sister. Dun does not so much conduct as conjure from a well within; I couldn’t stop watching him the entire performance. What makes an operatic success? Not the story, but the spectacle; not the characters, but the voices. Tea’s vocal lines are almost at home in Italian opera, although the words are disappointingly English. Haijing Fu’s unwavering baritone grounded the proceedings well, but Dun’s instrumental abandon is what makes the opera glisten and resound.