From the Towers of the Moon

From the Towers of the Moon

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From the Towers of the Moon is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in one act by Robert Moran
Robert Moran
Robert Moran is an American composer of operas and ballets as well as numerous orchestral, vocal, chamber and dance works.-Life:...

, with a libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Michael John LaChiusa
Michael John LaChiusa
Michael John LaChiusa is an American musical theatre and opera composer, lyricist, and librettist. He is best known for complex, musically challenging shows such as Hello Again, Marie Christine, The Wild Party, and See What I Wanna See...

. It is Moran's third opera and is based upon an ancient Japanese legend, called Princess Kaguya
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
, also known as , is a 10th century Japanese folktale. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese narrative and an early example of proto-science fiction....

, of a Moon Goddess who comes to Earth. Moran had previously read The Tale of the Shining Princess and seen a film adaptation of the legend made by Kon Ichikawa
Kon Ichikawa
was a Japanese film director.-Early life and career:Ichikawa was born in Ise, Mie Prefecture. In the 1930s Ichikawa attended a technical school in Osaka. Upon graduation, in 1933, he found a job with a local rental film studio, J.O. Studio, in their animation department...

 in 1987.

The opera was commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Opera
Minnesota Opera
The Minnesota Opera is a performance organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was founded in 1963 by the Walker Art Center, and is known for premiering such diverse works as Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Frankenstein by Libby Larsen...

 in 1992. Four excerpts, written for string quartet, were recorded as "Music from the Towers of the Moon" by the Balanescu Quartet
Balanescu Quartet
The Balanescu Quartet is an avant-garde string quartet founded in 1987 by Alexander Bălănescu that achieved fame through the release of several complex cover versions of songs by German experimental electronic music band Kraftwerk on their album "Possessed"....


Performance history

The opera premiered on the 27th of March, 1992 at the Minnesota Opera, in a production conducted by David Rudge and directed by Nic Muni. The part of the Emperor was performed by baritone Peter Halverson; the part of the girl was performed by Elisabeth Comeaux. Assistant conductor was Carl Witt.

While libretticist Michael John LaChiusa was an artist-in-residence at the University of North Carolina, UNC Opera presented the East Coast premiere of the opera.

Music from the Towers of the Moon was performed in a new string orchestra version in April 2008, at the State University of New York, Fredonia, conducted by David Rudge.

The opera is approximately 80 minutes duration, and is scored for flute/piccolo, oboe/English horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon,
trumpet, horn, trombone, three synthesizers, one percussionist: one timpani, triangle, two suspended cymbals (high and low), large tam, suspended car coil, vibraphone, chimes, two timbales, two sets of bongos (low to high, only 3 bongos used) two violins, viola, and cello (or strings without bassi).


The story of the opera relates how an exceptionally beatuiful moon goddess came to Earth and was confronted with human emotions when she falls in love with an Emperor before returning to the Moon. In the finale, the Moon princess, accompanied by Moon gods, departs from her cosmic abode to return to Earth.


Balanescu Quartet, Byrne/Moran/Lurie/Torke, ARGO label of London Records, October 1992.


In 1993, the opera was adapted as a contemporary dance piece called Four Towers by choreographer Christopher House
Christopher House
Christopher Maxwell House is a Canadian choreographer. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from York University he joined the Toronto Dance Theatre in 1979. In 1981 he was appointed that company's choreographer-in-residence...

 for the Toronto Dance Theatre
Toronto Dance Theatre
The Toronto Dance Theatre is a Canadian modern dance company based in Toronto, Ontario. Described by The Canadian Encyclopedia as "one of the foremost modern-dance companies in Canada", the company tours nationally and internationally and regularly performs at the Harbourfront Centre and Winchester...


Four Towers was inspired by House’s first hearing of Moran's music for "From the Towers of the Moon" and was created for Toronto Dance Theatre's twenty-fifth anniversary season. The first solo was performed by Laurence Lemieux, the trio by Naoko Murakoshi, Miriane Braaf, and Bill Coleman, and the second solo by Coralee McLaren.