In conversation with Tan Dun about the Martial Arts Trilogy…
What is the Martial Arts Trilogy?
The Trilogy features three different films as one opera or ballet in three acts. It centers on the love and sacrifice of three women for three very different reasons. Each of the film’s leading female characters sacrifices her life for love. In Crouching Tiger the character Jade sacrifices her life for her spiritual love of the wuxia dream. In Hero, the character Snow sacrifices her life for the patriotic love of her country. Lastly in The Banquet, like in Hamlet, Empress Wan sacrifices her life and love for desire and revenge. In the original film soundtrack, the three characters are represented by three musical instruments: cello, piano and violin.
How was the Martial Arts Trilogy created?
The Trilogy was born out of the three greatest romantic martial arts films of our time which were directed by three of its most influential directors: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger), Zhang Yimou (Hero) and Feng Xiaogang (The Banquet). For me, the Martial Arts Trilogy was a preconceived project that started ten years ago and developed into a spiritual drama through three of the most important musicians of our time Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Lang Lang.
What did winning the Oscar and Grammy mean for you?
I have always sought to cross boundaries, disciplines and bring different genres together. The tradition of martial arts was created from Chinese opera in the 19th century. To me, the opera tradition is an ancient form of cinema and cinema is the opera of the future. Winning these awards opened my music up to new audiences, bringing non-traditional concertgoers into the concert hall and the younger generation into the opera house.
Q2 features "Martial Arts Trilogy" on its "The New Canon" program: