‘Sweet Land’ Co-composed by Raven Chacon Wins Best New Opera

Posted on August 30, 2021

Sweet Land wins the 2021 Music Critics Association of North America’s Best New Opera Award. The opera was composed by Du Yun and Raven Chacon, with libretto by Aja Couchois Duncan and Douglas Kearney, and co-directed by Yuval Sharon and Cannupa Hanska Luger. Sweet Land pulls inspiration from place, staged in Los Angeles State Historic Park, to form a narrative that exposes the erasures, redactions, and myths at the center of much of the history of the United States.

Amid all of the swirling currents of history and the polyglot score — sometimes atonal, sometimes electronic, sometimes folk-influenced — one could sense the environment making the opera even more complex and meaningful. The Metro Gold Line trolley frequently whooshed along the tracks, helicopters buzzed the park, a train horn from Union Station would blow — all representing the costs of progress. Looking to the south, you could sense the triumph of the white man’s money in the lit-up skyscrapers downtown. And we were standing on the ground of past civilizations marginalized by history.
“The site became very influential in a lot of what we were doing,” says Chacon about composing the score. “We knew the stage would be outdoors, we knew that the train would be going by the location, we knew that you might hear the helicopter in the sky. All of that was taken into consideration in the sound design.”

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