The Dawns Here Are Quiet
World premiere in November 2015
By the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA)
Composer: Tang Jianping
Libretto: Wan Fang
Conductor: Zhang Guoyong
Director: Wang Xiaoying
Set design: Liu Kedong
Lighting design: Liu Jianzhong
Costume design: Zhao Yan
Make-up and style design: Shen Miao
Multimedia design: Hu Tianji
Physique design: Jia Fei
Choir conductor: Jiao Miao
Choir: NCPA Chorus
Orchestra: NCPA Orchestra
Adapted from the well-known novel by Boris Vasilyev, the two-act opera The Dawns Here Are Quiet by the NCPA was produced in 2015 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the success of the world's war against fascism. It tells the touching story of five female soldiers combating German Nazi invaders, exploring their braveness as well as their optimism.
Vaskov, a warrant officer and the hero of the story, guards a crucial section of railway with five young female soldiers, Lisa, Galya, Zhenya, Rita and Sonya, all vigorous and yearning for a beautiful future. One day, Rita notices that two Nazis soldiers are lurking in the nearby forest. She tells Vaskov, who then leads them to intercept the enemies. But it turns out there are 16 Nazis, not two. Lisa is dispatched back to the depot for help, but sinks into as wamp on her way.
Isolated and helpless, Vaskov and the rest of the women start their final confrontation with the enemies. One by one, the five young souls come to rest in their beloved land forever, sacrificing their lives for the war. The mysterious forest, gloomy swamp, cold helmets and hot flames of battle...all become intertwined with the image of the women, and together they strike an astounding chord of life.
Structurally based on traditional European operas, the composer of the play placed a great emphasis on absorbing elements of Russian folk music and the emotional tones of the Soviet Union's Patriotic War period (1941-45). Many of the pieces are household names in China, such as Trackers on the Volga River, which serves as the core musical theme and is blended to create many expressions during the play.
The first act depicts the personalities of the characters, their beautiful memories of life before the war and their old daily routines, which is in stark contrast with the cruelty of the second act. Meanwhile, a series of poetic scenes are created to promote the overall aesthetic, such as the personalized silver birches, and the ballet dance of the water fairy, the crawling and twisting swamp phantom that symbolizes darkness and evil power.
Also catering to the aesthetic needs of Chinese audiences, the arias play the essential function of portraying the characters via technically adjusted tonalities, modes, harmonies, rhythms and instrumental collaborations. For example, the cheerful aria of Rita, The Dawn is Coming, is mainly composed of a lively melody and a warming harmony; Zhenya, who has a fiery personality, sings Katyusha while battling with the enemies at the end of her life. Through the lyrical melody and unrestrained dance rhythms of Russian folk songs, the composer embodies the beautiful, passionate and romantic image of Zhenya and vents the deep pain in her heart. Galya’s I Know What Love Is gives full play to the artistic expression of the coloratura with the accompaniment of alternating major and minor harmonics, portraying a simple, lively, sweet figure. The female soldier quintet Before the Dawn is accompanied by bayan and five-stringed instruments, reflecting the rich musical features of the Soviet era.
*Names of the characters are transliterated.