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Rome, Buddha Passion: Tan Dun conducts his visionary opera in its Italian premiere at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia
The Chinese composer who combines Eastern and Western traditions is the author of refined 'cultured' scores, but also of the soundtracks of successful films that have made him famous throughout the world
Organizzato da: Fondazione Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

National Academy of Santa Cecilia Foundation Presenta

“ Concert Season 2023 – 24 ”
Tan Dun, one of the greatest composers on the contemporary scene, returns to Rome on the podium ofAcademy of Santa Cecilia to direct in Italian premiere his visionary Buddha Passion: the appointment is at Park of Music Ennio Morricone, as usual with three performances, in the days  Thursday 23 (7.30 pm), Friday 24 (8.30 pm) e Saturday 25 (6 pm) November 2023.

The Chinese composer and conductor, Oscar Prize 2001 for the soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale 2017, winner of a Grammy Awards is UNESCO Ambassador, is a world-renowned artist, known both to the "cultured" music scene and to the wider public (the New York Times defined him as "a sort of rock star of the contemporary music scene”). Author of complex scores such as Water Passion after St. Matthew, written in 2000 for the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, Tan Dun also composed the soundtracks for numerous successful films, created the music for the official ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and became popular on the web with his Internet Symphony Heroic (2010) commissioned by Google and YouTube.

Buddha Passion, an epic and monumental work based on ancient Chinese and Sanskrit texts, is deeply inspired by the Mogao Caves in the city of Dunhuang, the famous Caves of a Thousand Buddhas, a major Silk Road outpost that flourished as a center for Buddhist worship and learning, celebrated for the statues and paintings created by generations of monks and pilgrims.

The frescoes depict more than four thousand musical instruments, three thousand musicians and five hundred orchestras. Here Tan Dun spent two years immersed in observing, researching, documenting and translating some of the library's manuscripts: “I was so deeply moved – explains the composer – that I could almost hear the sounds emanating from those extraordinary paintings”.

This intense commitment culminated in the new, evocative work of Buddha Passion, commissioned by the Dresdner Musikfestspiele, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony and premiered on 23 May 2018 at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele.

The opera, in six acts with a libretto by Tan Dun himself, tells the story of a young prince who finds enlightenment and becomes Buddha; composed for seven soloists, choir and orchestra, the score also includes several traditional Chinese instruments as well as natural sounds; the ancient Eastern wisdom of Buddhism merges with the Western tradition of Bach's Passions, intertwining hypnotic orchestral textures and Eastern vocal techniques.

Already a guest of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia on various occasions, Tan Dun will once again take to the podium of the Cecilian Orchestra, Choir and Children's Choir (instructed by Andrea Secchi) performing his Buddha Passion for the first time in Italy, also recently recorded for the prestigious Decca label, and defined by the Financial Times as “an exciting fusion of Chinese and Western music, a magnificent work in every sense, based on profound simplicity.”

Rome, Buddha Passion: Tan Dun conducts his visionary opera in its Italian premiere at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia

Other information of interest

Tan Dun, a world-renowned artist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, has left an indelible mark on the world music scene with a creative repertoire that ranges from classical music to multimedia performances and Eastern and Western traditions. He has been awarded the most prestigious awards, including the Grammy Award, the Oscar Award, the Grawemeyer Award, the Bach Award, the Shostakovich Award, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and, most recently, the Istanbul Music Lifetime Achievement Award Festival. Tan Dun's music has been performed around the world by major orchestras, opera houses, international festivals, radio and television.

As a conductor he has performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, London Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Orchester National de France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala and Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Tan Dun is an artistic ambassador of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and serves as honorary artistic director of the China National Symphony, principal guest conductor of the Shenzhen Symphony, and honorary artistic director and principal guest conductor of the Xi´an Symphony Orchestra.

At the Accademia di Santa Cecilia he has already presented some of his most important compositions, among which they should be remembered Water percussion concert (2007), Internet symphony “Eroica” (2010) commissioned by Google and YouTube, e Water Passion after St. Matthew (2011).        


Orchestra, Choir and Children's Voices
of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia

director Tan Dun

soprano Candice Chung
mezzo soprano Hongni Wu
tenor Yi Li
baritone Elliot Madore
native female voice Jiangfan Yong
native male voice Batubagen
dancer and pipe Han Yan
choir master Andrea Secchi


Tan Dun
Buddha Passion

opera in six acts
libretto by Tan Dun (Italian premiere)


23 November 2023 (7.30 pm); November 24th at 8.30pm, November 25th at 6pm

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