Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

San Francisco Opera to Present World Premiere of Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s ‘Dream of The Red Chamber’, helmed by Stan Lai, Sept. 10 -29

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

San Francisco Opera is presenting the world premiere of composer and co-librettist Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber《紅樓夢》, an operatic treatment of Cao Xueqin’s celebrated 18th-century Chinese novel featuring an English-language text by co-librettist and Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), September 10- 29 at the War Memorial Opera House (301 Van Ness Avenue).

Bright Sheng. Photo by Wah Lui

Bright Sheng. Photo by Wah Lui

18th-century Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber—considered one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature—is the source for this highly anticipated world premiere by renowned Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng. Also known as The Story of the Stone, the opera focuses on a love triangle between the young nobleman Bao Yu and two very different women: Dai Yu, his spiritual soulmate, and Bao Chai, a beautiful heiress. Iconic Taiwanese stage director Stan Lai, one of the most celebrated playwrights/directors in Asia, joins forces with Chinese production designer Tim Yip, the Academy Award-winning designer of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to bring this visionary work to life. American maestro George Manahan will conduct.

The Dream of the Red Chamber cast includes an array of established and rising Asian singers including Chinese tenor Yijie Shi (in the role of Bao Yu); South Korean soprano Pureum Jo (Dai Yu); Chinese mezzo-soprano and current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Nian Wang (Bao Chai); in her U.S. debut, Chinese contralto Qiulin Zhang (Granny Jia); South Korean mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim (Lady Wang); Taiwanese soprano and Merola Opera Program alumna Karen Chia-Ling Ho (Princess Jia); and Chinese-American mezzo-soprano and San Francisco Opera veteran from 1990 to 1993, Yanyu Guo (Aunt Xue).

The production team includes lighting by Gary Marder, projections by John Wong, chorus director Ian Robertson and choreography by Fang-Yi Sheu.        
Performance Schedule
September 10  @ 7:30 p.m.
September 13 @ 7:30 p.m.
September 18 @ 2 p.m.
September 23 @ 7:30 p.m.
September 27  @ 7:30 p.m.
September 29 @ 7:30 p.m.

In addition to Dream of the Red Chamber, highlights of San Francisco Opera’s 2016-2017 international season also includes Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier featuring the Company debuts of South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee, Italian soprano Anna Pirozzi, Georgian baritone George Gagnidze and American mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges in a McVicar co-production from London’s Royal Opera House, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti and the Company debut of renowned Los Angeles visual and graffiti artist RETNA, artistic designer for a new Francesca Zambello production of Verdi’s ancient Egyptian opera Aida starring soprano Leah Crocetto, tenor Brian Jagde, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk and baritone George Gagnidze, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. And famed French director Laurent Pelly’s whimsical production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale marks the Company debut of tenor Lawrence Brownlee, along with San Francisco Opera veterans, bass-baritone Maurizio Muraro, soprano Heidi Stober and baritone Lucas Meachem, conducted by Giuseppe Finzi.

Dream of the Red Chamber marks David Gockley’s 43rd career world premiere and eighth commission for the Company to date, including 2008’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Stewart Wallace, based on Amy Tan’s novel and featuring a libretto by Tan. Gockley is currently in his tenth and final season as San Francisco Opera’s General Director; he retires at the conclusion of the current season, capping an internationally acclaimed and award-winning career spanning 44 years as one of America’s most prominent opera impresarios.

Please visit for further details, or call the Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. San Francisco Opera Box Office hours: Monday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m.– 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. beginning January 16 (Saturdays phone only). All casts, programs, prices and schedules are subject to change.

San Francisco Opera evening performances at the War Memorial Opera House begin at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances begin at 2 p.m., with the exception of the September 9 season opening performance of Andrea Chénier, which will begin at 8 p.m.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART Station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For further public transportation information, visit

Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and George Takei talk about Broadway’s Allegiance at The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University

Click here for more articles on David Henry Hwang.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and

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