It occurred to me as we were preparing for the world premiere of Madame White Snake that an opera was not the best way to reach children. I felt it important to reach children, particularly Asian children, because so many young people of Asian descent growing up in America are either ignorant of their cultural heritage or worse, alienated from it. Don’t get me wrong. I love so much about my adopted country, including the fact that it permits other cultures to exist side by side with the dominant one. But American culture is so dominant that it tends to eclipse and supersede other cultural minorities, particularly in the minds of young people who are trying desperately to fit in.
So I wrote a “Broadway” style musical geared towards younger folk, something fun and relevant to them and, dare I say it, tuneful! The title of this piece, “When the White Snake Cries”, is from my childhood in Singapore. The Legend of the White Snake was recounted to me as a folk tale, something parents of generations of children living in the area of the Yellow River (or Huang He) in China told their kids to make sense of the frightening phenomenon of the yearly flooding of that River. This story was handed down over the centuries and my introduction to a geography lesson of that region was accompanied by this folk tale: The Yellow River floods because the White Snake cries. And thus we learned the Legend of the White Snake.
What is more natural than returning to this simple folk tale to reach the audience I wanted to reach. I tried to focus the piece on the Green Snake, to make her accessible to younger people as she relates the tragedy that befell her mistress and the world.
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