Tan Dun is probably known best for his film scores to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero". This DVD is a performance of his 1st opera. In "Marco Polo", the title character is actually played by two people: a woman plays the part of Marco, and a man plays the part of Polo. The piece transitions between a physical journey and a spiritual journey.
As the orchestra tunes, the players are already on the stage, with others approaching. The character Rustichello acts as a storyteller, and uses a sort of sing-speak method of telling his story. The music is a combination of traditional Oriental and avant-garde Western (modern classical). At one point, a sitarist and a tabla player join the actors onstage. The staging and costuming are bizarre, and complement the music well.
"Marco Polo" is very colorful and theatrical, like his opera "The First Emperor", which was a huge success when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2007. Opus Arte DVDs (such as this one) usually contain an illustrated synopsis, which may be helpful prior watching the opera. A 25-minute documentary is also included, allowing the viewer to learn more about the composer, players and crew.
Tan Dun - The First Emperor (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series)