Composer Zhou Long wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘Madame White Snake’

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The opera ‘Madame White Snake,’ by composer Zhou Long, has won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for music. A story of a mythical snake that transforms into a woman, the work was produced last year at the Boston Opera. The award was announced Monday in New York.

‘Madame White Snake,’ which features a libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs, features a blend of different music styles. A critic for the Boston Globe wrote that ‘Zhou’s score is often quite inventive in its fusing of Eastern and Western traditions, and there is some arresting instrumental and vocal writing... [but the libretto] is a major obstacle to the project’s overall success.’


Zhou, 57, was born in China and is now an American citizen. In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The composer has taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance and other institutions.

In 2004, Zhou presented his piece ‘Two Poems From T’ang’ with the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, as part of its American Composers Festival. Times music critic Mark Swed described Zhou’s piece as ‘lustrous’ and ‘stunning in its color and imagery.’

This year’s other finalists for the music prize were Fred Lerdahl’s ‘Arches,’ a piece for cello and chamber ensemble, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon for ‘Comala,’ a cantata with influences from Latin America. Last year’s winner was Jennifer Higdon for her violin concerto.


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-- David Ng