The composer Ming Tsao writes music with a sensuality that arises out of a focus on the inherent qualities of sound – what the composer calls its “materiality” – coupled with an extreme formal rigour and a highly precise, finely crafted compositional style. His music is foregrounded by a contemporary conception of musical lyricism, which is fractured, multi-faceted and problematised to reflect the modern experience.
Many of Ming Tsao’s works are the result of a critical and deep-thinking examination of the Western classical tradition, as well as his serious engagement with Chinese traditional music. Increasingly, opera is the forum where Ming Tsao brings these interests together. The chamber opera Prospero’s Garden (2009-2015) consists of two acts that are also separate works: Die Geisterinsel, commissioned by the Staatsoper Stuttgart and premiered in 2011, is a re-working of Johann Rudolph Zumsteeg’s 18th-century opera on Shakespeare’s The Tempest; Mirandas Atemwende, premiered in Berlin in 2015, takes Schoenberg’s Erwartung as the starting point for an expressionist exploration of character. He is currently composing a large-scale opera that reinvents the Chinese Ming dynasty Kunqu opera Mudan Ting (The Peony Pavilion).