The Staller Recital Hall will resound with
the voices of the female ensemble
Tapestry on Sunday, December 4th, performing the operatic
The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion,
Song Of Songs: Come Into My Garden, A
Portrait of Sensual and Spiritual Love.
Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries to celebrate
their 2010 exhibit, In
the Realm of the Buddha, The White Rooster
was composed by Prof.
Sheila Silver, Undergraduate Director of SBU's
Department of Music.
Freer and Sackler
are among the preeminent Asian galleries in the United
compositions have been commissioned and performed by
orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists throughout the
US and Europe.
is the winner of the 2007 Sackler Prize for Music
Composition in Opera for
The librettist is Prof. Stephen
Kitsakos of SUNY New Paltz.
Rooster was written for
the four female singing voices of Tapestry who will be
joined at Staller by Takaaki Matsuko on percussion. It uses
traditional Tibetan melodies along with chant, ensemble
singing, aria, and spoken dialogue.
Tibetan singing bowls and ethnic hand drums are the
unique accompaniment. The bowls, tapped with hammers or
rubbed on the exterior or interior, produce beautiful
Rooster tells a story within a story celebrating the
power of individual acts of compassion. It is a musical
interpretation of a mythic Tibetan folk story placed within
a contemporary setting in the tradition of a “play within a
play.” The only instruments are the six Tibetan singing
bowls, which are generally played by the women, and hand
drums played by the percussionist.
The basic premise of the story is of five
Tibetan Buddhist nuns fleeing to India when one is shot by a
soldier. They take refuge in an abandoned hut. To pass the
time while nursing their wounded sister, they reenact an
ancient Tibetan tale of suppression, liberation and
forgiveness. In the end, help comes from a most unexpected
source. Emanating a spirit of reconciliation and healing,
the piece celebrates the power of individual acts of
One assumes the role of the young nomadic girl, Diki, while
another becomes the White Rooster, wrapping herself in a
white scarf. One day, Diki’s herd of yaks disappears.
Searching for them, she hears a beautiful voice singing and
comes upon a white rooster who can speak. He promises to
help her find them if she will come back the next day, and
when she does, he begs her to marry him. In exchange he will
care for her and her sisters. Realizing that he “is no
ordinary bird,” and out of compassion for him, she agrees
and passes a pleasant year at his side.
One night, wandering outside, she follows his
singing to find a “handsome young man arms stretched to the
skies.” She returns to the cave, sees the white rooster’s
skin on the floor, and realizing the young man and the
rooster are the same, throws the rooster’s skin into the
fire hoping to release him from whatever spell enchants him.
The young man tells her she has made things worse. As a
prince he rebelled against the demons and they punished him
by transforming him into a rooster. He must remain in this
state except for one hour each night when he could be his
true self. Without the skin he is doomed to be the slave of
the demons forever. The only way to liberate him is if she
wears the skin. The skin magically returns and they all
begin to chant.
When the chanting grows to a heightened passion the power
and mystery of it is broken by a knock on the door. It is
the doctor who has heard their singing and been drawn by its
power. The nuns are afraid he will report them but he
convinces them to let him treat their sister. The doctor
extracts the bullet as the women chant together. Asked why
he has saved this life, the doctor explains that he has
suffered too and wants to save her life because “every act
of kindness counts.”
Smithsonian is a U.S. government institution, the text could
not be construed as political. The word “Chinese” was never
allowed to be used; so the nationality of the border
guard and doctor are never identified. By instead focusing
on their common humanity, the narrative becomes universal.
Silver said, “In the end, I kept the abstraction. The nun is
shot by a border guard and is saved by one of the occupying
doctors. It is a fact that Chinese doctors are not allowed
to treat Tibetans who have been protesting or been injured
while trying to leave Tibet. So his action puts him at risk.
In any case, the piece is so much about compassion - there
isn't an angry note in it."
"So the doctor belongs to the group of people who also shot
the nun. He saves the nun. It is his individual act of
compassion which is the climax of the story.”
Priscilla McLean of the Albany Times Union called The
White Rooster a “tour de force.” In her review she
wrote, "The music was fascinating, using Tibetan chants,
modern harmonies and interweaving original melodies with
much variety. All the bowls and singers combined for a
strong finale, and Masuko continued playing the bowls to end
the cantata in a timeless sonic gesture."
Check out the
incredible sounds of Tibetan singing bowls at the link below
- though they will be a far better listening experience live
at Staller. Sounds like it will be an exciting performance!
And for students, with rush pricing available all week, not
just before the show, it's a definite steal!
Tapestry will also perform
Song of Songs, interpretations of Biblical text that
includes chants, medieval compositions, cantillation, and
improv between vielle (Medieval fiddle) and percussion. They
will be joined by the “amazing” vielle player Shira Kammen.
Non-rush tickets can be ordered online at
www.stallercenter.com, by calling Staller at 631-632-
ARTS, or by stopping in. Student rush tickets can be
purchased at the Staller Box Office. Hours are Mon-Fri
12-6pm and 1 hour before each show.
- Ja Young, Alumni Editor