In 2010, in commemorate of the 400th anniversary of the death of Matteo Ricci, Zuni produced a digital opera in 7 acts “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” – adapted from the book of the same title by Jonathan Spence. By integrating elements including opera , contemporary music, puppetry, and projection, the performance reveals the legend of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest, who came to the Ming Dynasty China in the late 16th century for missionary work by teaching the Chinese the Western art of memory and learn Chinese culture as a foreigner. The Far East is undoubtedly a heterotopia to Matteo Ricci; the production team borrowed the St. Ignatius Chapel as the performance venue and the embodiment of heterotopia, to create a memory palace transcending time, space, and culture. The opera is directed by Mathias Woo, with Diana Liao as the librettist. The music is composed by Steve Hui (aka Nerve) and performed by the internationally acclaimed basso cantante Tian Hao Jiang as Matteo Ricci. St eve Hui challenges the musical nature of opera, electronic music, human vocal, and computer-generated vocal. Matteo Ricci is the pioneer of cultural exchange between the East and the West; the music in the opera also shows qualities of the two cultures with the juxtaposition of Western and Eastern musical instruments – including the piano, the viola, the sheng, the dongxiao, and more – to resonate with the story of cultural exchange.
Today, with the advancement in technology, interactions between cultures and even theatrical performances are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries as they were in the times of Matteo Ricci. Let’s revisit the late 16th Century’s cultural exchange journey on Zuni YouTube channel “ZLive”.