M Selim Yavuz deposited Symbolism and Text Painting in Tan Dun’s Marco Polo in the group Music and Sound on Humanities Commons 3 years, 7 months ago
Recent opera repertoire has seen a wide variety of styles in opera composition. Marco Polo represents a rather unique corner of this wide variety. Tan Dun explores a capacious array of influences in this work. Starting from his own roots, Chinese traditional music, he explores European art tradition to some extent. Tan Dun also touches the styles and elements that are present along the journey of Marco Polo. What makes Marco Polo an interesting case study for symbolism is the fact that this opera incorporates so many different allusions and remarks alongside with direct references. Tan Dun does not refrain from using direct references to elements outside of the European art music idiom which were/are generally left as distant allusions when used by Europe-origin composers. This might be because of the confidence brought out by the fact that he is of Chinese origin and the general opinion of European art music community that one should always embrace their own roots. This is, of course, just idle speculation. Here, the article will try to demonstrate aforementioned elements within, with concrete musical examples.