A discussion of Tan Dun's opera, "Marco Polo"

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance

First Committee Member

David Alt, Committee Chair


The purpose of this essay is to explore Tan Dun's musical style through a discussion of three aspects of his opera Marco Polo including: the opera's overall form, the instrumentation and the composer's compositional approach to the voice. Tan's international style of composition is rooted in and yet breaks the mold of traditional Beijing opera and of traditional Western Romantic opera composition and combines the vocal and theatrical styles and instrumentation of both into a unique union. This paper also includes a biography of the composer, synopsis of the opera and a discussion of Paul Griffith's libretto. Few sources of information on Tan and Marco Polo are available. No books are written in English about Tan or this opera, so the Internet was an important source. The Sony web site includes a biography, list of works, discography, current tour and other links that proved to be most useful.



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