Welcome to the eighth installment of the 2015 Quick Fact blog series. These posts aim to give you a bite-size overview of performances you’ll find at the Festival this season. Each post in the series includes who, what, when, where, and why. We’ll even throw in some photos and videos to sweeten the deal!

Join us on Tuesday, May 5th for Creating Paradise, the next discussion in our new Spoleto Salon series!

As one of the world’s most revered art forms, opera is a cornerstone of Spoleto Festival USA, but can be daunting for newcomers. Learn a brief history of the genre including an introduction to basic opera vocabulary, and hear from three modern-day practitioners: Paradise Interrupted Director and Visual Designer Jennifer Wen Macomposer Huang Ruo, and internationally renowned Kunqu opera singer Qian Yi talk about the genesis of this installation opera. Find out how artists’ ideas become reality and how new productions are brought to the stage. Hosted by Miles Hoffman.

6:00pm, The Murray Center, 14 George Street
Doors open at 5:30pm
Tickets $15 | BUY HERE


Spoleto Festival USA presents the world premiere of Paradise Interrupted, an arresting new installation opera that marries Chinese tradition dating from the Ming Dynasty with contemporary Western idioms. Revered visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma, known to global audiences for her work on the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, directs and designs this exquisite opera. Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy leads a chamber orchestra mixing Western and Chinese instruments in a score written by the inventive, Chinese American composer, Huang Ruo, that is at once a continuation of tradition and entirely new.

Internationally acclaimed kunqu singer Qian Yi (The Peony Pavilion, SFUSA 2004; Ghost Lovers, SFUSA 2002) performs the central role of the Woman around whom all of the action swirls. The cast also features four singers making their SFUSA debuts: Joseph Dennis, John Holiday, Joo Won Kang, and Ao Li.

Paradise Interrupted


Re-imagining and fusing the biblical story of Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the vivid dream of Du Liniang of The Peony Pavilion, Paradise Interrupted is itself the result of a vibrant vision by artist and director Jennifer Wen Ma. While standing under one of her hanging inked garden installations, she imagined an ink-black garden unfolding on a stage and the seed of a story took hold. When she met Qian Yi she found her muse and combining forces with Huang Ruo, the ethereal world of Paradise Interrupted began to grow, realized on stage at these world premiere performances.

On stage a multi-media installation appears and disappears at the command of the Woman’s singing. A voluminous black garden made from hundreds of laser-cut paper sheets can be lengthened or shortened at will by the demand of the drama. Combined with responsive video projection, an evocative dreamlike setting is created, inspired by the symbolic and spare kunqu stage and Chinese literati landscape scrolls. Qian Yi’s skillful kunqu movements simultaneously demonstrate her mastery of classical movement with contemporary expression as seen in this video of a performance of excerpts held at The Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur in March.

Read a Q&A on artnet.com with Director Jennifer Wen Ma here.

Follow the development of Paradise Interrupted on Facebook here.


Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain Street


Friday, May 22 at 7:00pm
Sunday, May 24 at 8:00pm
Wednesday, May 27 at 8:00pm
Friday, May 29 at 8:00pm
Sunday, May 31 at 1:00pm


Paradise Interrupted


Be among the first in the world to see and hear this new production. Bear witness to creative minds and art and music merging, embodied by a singer internationally hailed as the best at what she does.

Paradise Interrupted is co-commissioned and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA,  Lincoln Center Festival and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts.

Tickets to Paradise Interrupted and all other Festival performances are available online at spoletousa.org, over the phone at (843) 579-3100, and in person at the Charleston Visitor Center (375 Meeting Street).

Photo of excerpts from Paradise Interrupted at The Metropolitan Museum by Stephanie Berger.


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