Marco Polo in Amsterdam
8th July 2008
Tan Dun portrays the Venetian explorer Marco Polo’s expedition to the Far East as a journey of both inner and physical discovery. Along the way he not only meets up with historical figures but also with those internal forces experienced by any person who sets out to surmount spiritual as well as physical challenges. The division of the title role into two figures is thus logical, and the significance of the subtitle ‘an opera within an opera’ becomes clear from the depiction of spiritual experiences as well as the geographical journey. Both serve to draw lessons for the future, based on the past, via the present. At the same time the work can be seen as the compositional journey of the composer himself, who attempts to unify the various cultural worlds he occupies: a blend of Western avant garde and Oriental traditions.