Friday, March 24, 2023, 7:30 PM

Street and Davis Performance Hall, Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

Co-commissioned by the Moss Arts Center
Recommended for ages 14 and up



View the program for this event here.

Composer and librettist: Huang Ruo
Director and production design: Basil Twist
Lighting design: Amuyu "Poe" Saegusa
Featuring Ars Nova Copenhagen
Presented by Beth Morrison Projects

A daring new music theatre work by composer Huang Ruo and puppeteer, designer, and director Basil Twist, Book of Mountains and Seas is a modern take on ancient Chinese creation myths that are relevant to our current climate change struggle, featuring the chorus of Ars Nova Copenhagen alongside massive puppets and striking lanterns. The work is sung in Mandarin with English supertitles.

"… an exquisite masterpiece of suggestion, an immersive tapestry of sound and image that weaves itself into your consciousness and makes its point about the interdependence of humans and their planet without ever saying it outright.”

— The Wall Street Journal

Book of Mountains and Seas is inspired by the ancient Chinese compilation of early myths of the same title, which was first transcribed in 4th-century B.C. Over the years, these mythological stories have become part of Chinese written and oral history, shifted and reshaped to match contemporary times.

Book of Mountains and Seas is a 21st-century adaptation and expansion of four of these tales. Its lyrics are based on the original Chinese texts from the book, with additional newly created words to complete the soundscape and symbolic drama. As the four tales are ancient, they are abstract and timeless. The work contains timeless codes about the universe, creation, planet, nature, life, human ambition and fate, the relationship and interaction between mankind and the planet.

About Huang Ruo

Composer Huang Ruo has been lauded by the New York Times for having “a distinctive style.” Ruo’s vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound, rock, and jazz to create a seamless, organic integration using a compositional technique he calls “dimensionalism.” Ruo’s diverse compositional works span from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theatre, and dance, to cross-genre, sound installation, architectural installation, multimedia, experimental improvisation, folk rock, and film. His music has been premiered and performed by renowned ensembles.

His opera, An American Soldier (with libretto by David Henry Hwang), was named one of the best classical music events in 2018 by the New York Times. Ruo is a composition faculty at the Mannes School of Music and is the artistic director and conductor of Ensemble FIRE. He was selected as a Young Leader Fellow by the National Committee on United States-China Relations in 2006.

"…splendid puppetry, imbued with poignancy and the pulsing, drum-driven drama of mythic quest.”

—The New York Times

About Basil Twist

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer. Twist is the sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France. His showmanship was spotlighted in New York by the Jim Henson International Festival of Puppetry with his award-winning The Araneidae Show. This recognition coupled with the ground-breaking and multiple award-winning Symphonie Fantastique, Twist was revealed as a singular artist of unlimited imagination.

Subsequently, Twist has created over 20 original full-length works for the stage. Highlights include Petrushka, The Rite of Spring (Lincoln Center), Dogugaeshi (Barbican, Paris, Charleveille-Mezieres), Behind the Lid (New York), and Arias with a Twist (Paris, Stockholm). His honors include Obie, Henry Hewes, and Doris Duke Performing awards; multiple UNIMA and Bessie awards; a Guggenheim fellowship; a MacArthur Fellowship; and the Rome Prize. He directs the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE, New York City.

About Ars Nova Copenhagen

Ars Nova Copenhagen is a 12-piece Grammy winning vocal ensemble founded in 1979 and is widely recognized as one of the world's finest of its kind. Ars Nova has also worked with Bo Holten and Tamás Vetö (both former chief conductors), as well as Kaspars Putnins, Andrew Lawrence King, Anthony Rooley, Kees Boeke, Michael Bojesen, and Søren K. Hansen, all of whom have appeared as guest conductors.

The ensemble specializes in the interpretation of the polyphonic choral music of the Renaissance and new vocal music. Ars Nova is also building collaborations with creative artists in different fields such as drama, film, and ballet, as well as cultivating new modes of concert performance and innovative repertoire. The group's performances are marked with precision and nerve and with a sound that attracts attention worldwide.


This production is dedicated to Stuart Nelson. Book of Mountains and Seas was commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, Ars Nova Copenhagen, the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, Toronto Soundstreams, Koorbiennale, Hong Kong New Vision Festival, and Linda and Stuart Nelson.

Book of Mountains and Seas is made possible by the Jim Henson Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

This is the first performance of Book of Mountains and Seas at the Moss Arts Center.