Beautiful Red ...
...is an opera inspired by the challenges women faced during the rise of China and the one child policy. The cultural revolution during the 1950s led to a famine that killed millions. In response the Communist Party felt that a one child policy was the best way to prevent a second famine in a country that already had the largest population in the world. China had no social safety net, and the boys traditionally took care of their parents. One unintended consequence of the one child policy was a pressure on families to abort girls in favor of boys. Beautiful Red takes these issues head on in a fiction inspired by true events using music in hopes that we may all find deeper understanding.
The opera itself is not based in any country. It's a fiction without time or place. The casting of the opera will include all races. It's a story we can all relate to because it's a story about survival in a world where the odds are stacked against us. It's about forgiveness and a recognition that what we often assume to be cruelty is really unfortunate circumstances. It's a story about letting go of our anger so that we can focus on making a better world for our children. It's a testament to the choice we all face ... do we become bitter and resentful in the face of life's ugliness ... or do we take responsibility for making our world a better place.
Many would recommend avoiding controversial topics like the one child policy and women's fight for dignity in China and around the world. We are trying to tackle both in one opera. The risk of miscommunication is very high, but we also have an amazing opportunity to help people from the East and West better understand each other's culture and history so that we may better appreciate each other's beauty and unique strengths.
Following the performance of the Opera "Wading Home"- (from left) Artistic Director Barbara Hill Moore, librettist/novelist Rosalyn Story, Fort Worth Opera Executive Director Darren Woods, Composer Mary Alice Rich, and Stage Director Hank Hammett, and Conductor Constantina Tsolainu.
Excerpts from Wading Home are available online but password protected. If you want access please request through the comment box below.
Act 1, Scene 1: https://vimeo.com/126085805
Act 1, Scene 4: https://vimeo.com/126086149
Act 1, Scene 6: https://vimeo.com/126088481
Act 2, Scene 8: https://vimeo.com/126087774
Mary Alice Rich and Dr Lihong McPhail teamed up last Christmas to tell this story. The opera is a fiction, but the story is inspired by the observations of Lihong, a native born Chinese.
Mary Alice, a professional musician and award-winning composer, collaborated with Rosalyn Story in setting her novel Wading Home to music. The opera WADING HOME received a $40,000 MPower Grant in 2014 from the Sphinx Organization to premier the work in Dallas, Texas (2015). Later it received funding from other sources to take the opera to New Orleans (2015) and to South Africa (2018). Mary Alice is making the stories and observations of Lihong come to life in her third opera...Beautiful Red.
Lihong: "We decided to take on this challenge because we feel it's an important story that would make for a beautiful opera. Our experiences and backgrounds have given us this unique opportunity."
The women who have struggled to survive and thrive during China's rise to power are often not even aware of the cultural challenges they fight to overcame. Like the air they breath...it's always been there. The pace of change is slow and their struggle is still very real today.
Lihong moved to the USA in 2005 where she received her doctorate in Economics from Iowa State University and married an American. Lihong and Joseph are the proud parents of two daughters, Aila (left) and Sumay (right). Lihong experienced first hand the struggles of women in a country where women are often made to feel inferior to men.
Lihong: "Women in my neighborhood were pressured by society to give birth to boys. As a little girl I remember feeling it. I didn't think it was wrong at the time. It just was. No one questioned it."
Mary Alice has dedicated most of her career to teaching underserved music students. For nearly 27 years, she has been on the faculty of the Dallas Symphony-sponsored "Young Strings Scholarship Program" providing private lessons and opportunities for string students of diverse backgrounds. In 2011, through "Voices of Change," she proposed and implemented a collaborative project "My Neighborhood" with 7 underserved DISD elementary schools where she worked with classroom music teachers and their students toward setting the students' poetry to music. The classes then performed these pieces for each other at El Centro college.
Mary Alice: "Prejudice regarding race and gender has been around for a long time even within the music world. That's why professional orchestra preliminary auditions are held behind screen. Back in the 1970's and '80's, nearly all the female violinists (like myself) would wear men's shoes during the auditions so the judges couldn't tell from behind screen if it were a woman by the sound of the shoes (or the look, if the screen did not reach the floor). I believe that such stories from diverse sources, like Rosalyn and Lihong, are important in striving to improve our world."
WEquil team (from left) Aila, Lihong, Joseph, and Sumay McPhail
Mary Alice and Lihong are aware of the sensitivity of the issues they are addressing in Beautiful Red. The story is a fiction and is not based in any country. The story is inspired by the lives of real women, and their primary goal is to do justice to their lives and struggles.
By telling this story the opera touch on issues related to gender equality and tensions between China and the United States. These are very sensitive topics. Mary Alice and Lihong both hope the Story of Beautiful Red can help improve understanding. With that in mind they composed five messages they hope to convey through the story of Beautiful Red.
Mary Alice is the sole proprietor of Beautiful Red. WEquil is supporting Mary Alice for free because Lihong and Joseph McPhail believe that it is a worthy cause.
1. Strength and perseverance can lead success to rise from the ashes of tragedy.
2. Hate and anger are the enemies...not any particular person or group.
3. People can change ... even if it takes a long time.
4. Women and young girls are struggling in many parts of the world.
5. On a national--and personal--level, much can be learned from reaching out, listening, and understanding each other.
We also hope to at least cover the costs of a premier showing in Dallas Texas. 10% of profits from Beautiful Red will be donated to charities that benefit girls and young women in areas Mary Alice and Lihong determine to be most impactful.
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