World premiere in September 2017
By China National Opera House
Composer: Xu Shuya
Libretto: Wang Xiaoling
Conductor: Yang Yang
Set design: Ma Lianqing
Sung for more than 1,000 years, Manas is one of the three major epic poems of China’s ethnic minorities. It tells the heroic stories of the eight generations of the family of Manas, the folk hero of the Kirgiz people, whofight against aggression and protect their homeland.
Based on this glorious epic, the eponymous opera produced by China National Opera House focuses on the self-development of Semetei, Manas's son, and how he seeks revenge for his father, who was murdered by enemies after unifying the Kirgiz tribes. Raised by his mother, Semetei succeeds to the throne and marries the fairy Aytralek, which irritates his first wife, Chaqikai. She conspires with usurpers and murders Semetei after he successfully avenges his father's death. At the people's call, the spirit of Manas is revealed, holding grease in one hand and a blood clot in the other, symbolizing the peace, justice and invincibility of the Kirgiz people. The Manas family's legend continues, and their epic story has been transmitted from generation to generation.
The music of the opera is performed passionately to present the charming Kirgiz ethnic characters. Nearly 30 folk songs and instrumental melodies were selected from a large body of music and employed to create the characters' arias and other musical features. Some pieces are played by traditional Kirgiz instruments, including Kumzi fiddles, buccal reeds and Kirgiz flutes. Most of the lyrics retain the lively style of ancient ballads and incorporate the magnificence of modern verses.
Horses and eagles used to play crucial functions in the daily life of Kirgiz people. This heritage is vividly reflected in the set design of the opera. A massive model of a horse head often rises in the center of the stage with an eagle hovering above. Whenever the spirit of Manas is revealed, a tall horse stands in front of him, and an eagle flies above his head. This imagery powerfully imprints the heroic memory of a grassland nation in the audience's hearts and minds.
The traditional Kirgiz dances, exquisite costumes and wonderful light design also glorify this great production.
*Names of the characters are transliterated.