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A rare, supernatural
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
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.
from the Star:
Sep. 16, 2001.
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
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.
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 Schafers 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. Schafers design team, Jerrard and
Diana Smith, were very deserving of the standing ovation which they
The events of the play, which is set in the Tang Dynasty of seventh
century China, were mainly enacted on a pagoda-like stage at the waters
edge. The 12-piece orchestra, conducted by Alex Pauk, included the virtuoso
pipa and guzheng of Liu Fang and George Gaos 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.
"The Palace of the Cinnabar
Phoenix" will be CBC Radio
Music's submission to the 2002 Prix Italia competition, in
It is noteworthy that CBC Radios 1997 recording of Schafers
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.