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A rare, supernatural delight
Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail
The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix

The emperor's boat, a long, low skiff in the shape of a yellow dragon, glided slowly across the sheltered lake. The setting sun had almost gathered up its long train of reddish-yellow light, yet the emperor's retainer still held a parasol over his lord.
Dragon's legs turned the groaning paddle wheel, and the boat reached shore near an intricate two-level summer house. As the party disembarked, a group of life-sized puppets paid their respects to the emperor, himself a puppet.
Very few people do theatre the way R. Murray Schafer does, with God as co-designer of stage and lighting. The risks are high with such a fickle collaborator, but when it all works, the effect is beyond description.

(full review)


… from the Star:
Sep. 16, 2001.
William Littler
PONTYPOOL, ONT. - Let's see now: from Highway 401 we head north up Highway 115/35, continue about five kilometres further north up Highway 35, and then turn west on to Waite Rd., following its hill and dale course until we reach Number 196, site of Wolverton Hills, deep in the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Follow those instructions tonight, arrive by 7:30 and, weather permitting, you will find yourself transported back to T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD) China, confronting a red-and-yellow, lantern-lit pavilion nestled beside a two-hectare lake inhabited by dragons.

(full review)


The review by John Becker for OperaCanada magazine:

The convergence of art and nature is a characteristic unique to the major works of R. Murray Schafer. Very fortunately, nature provided a lovely, clear autumn evening for the third of four performances in the world premiere of the most splendid and good-humoured of the twelve works of Schafer’s Patria Cycle, Part Eight: The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix.
The audience sat on the shores of a tiny lake in the Oak Ridges Moraine, near the village of Pontypool. Much happened on and under the water. La Jeunesse Choir sang from behind the dark forest on the far shore. A Tai Chi quartet performed on a raft. Characters came and went on an elaborate, glowing dragon boat. There were dragons and waterbirds, animated by synchronized swimmers, and in the climax a palace rose from beneath brightly-lit, bubbling water. Schafer’s design team, Jerrard and Diana Smith, were very deserving of the standing ovation which they received.
The events of the play, which is set in the T’ang Dynasty of seventh century China, were mainly enacted on a pagoda-like stage at the water’s edge. The 12-piece orchestra, conducted by Alex Pauk, included the virtuoso pipa and guzheng of Liu Fang and George Gao’s piercingly expressive erhu. Musicians and four of the five principal singers were situated on the ground under and in front of the pagoda, creating soundscapes to be borne on the wind in the trees.

(full review)

"The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix" will be CBC Radio Music's submission to the 2002 Prix Italia competition, in the fall.
It is noteworthy that CBC Radio’s 1997 recording of Schafer’s outdoor production of the Patria Prologue, The Princess of the Stars won the Bronze Medal at the 1999 International Festival of New York for Best Sound Recording and was honoured at the 2000 Prix Italia Broadcasting Competition.