Opening of the Monkey: Journey to the West at Lincoln Center

curtain call with Brad Lubman, Chen Shi-Zheng and Jamie Hewlett

Photo by Niko

Monkey: Journey to the West is a music theater piece based on a classic Chinese folktale “Journey to the West” which dates to 1592. It is conceived, written and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng. The composer is Damon Albarn, best known in the U.S. as the singer/songwriter in the band Blur. The designer/animator is Jamie Hewlett, who, together with Albarn, created the virtual band, Gorillaz*.   On July 9th, it had the opening and red carpet ceremony that was packed with celebrities including Tan Dun 譚盾, Yuxi Jin 靳羽西, Jiang Tian Hao 田浩江, Shirley Young, Chen Shi-Zheng 陳士爭, Nigel Redden, Darren Aronofsky, Bennett Miller, Jamie Hewlett, Marcus Samuelsson and Jed Bernstein.

Over the course of this 110-minute, fantastical journey, the monk Tripitaka, travels from China to India, facing many challenges while searching for the sacred Buddhist scriptures. The mischievous Monkey King leads Tripitaka and his animal companion protectors, including a pig and a horse, in a series of perilous and comic adventures and misadventures.

The dazzling production combines elements of music theater, bold and stunning animation, and performances by Chinese vocalists, martial artists and the Jiangsu Yancheng Acrobatic Company. Damon Albarn’s original and compelling score uses washes of electronic sounds, brass fanfares, electronic percussion, and Chinese pop melodies. Jamie Hewlett’s designs, animations, and eye-popping costumes reference the world of Japanese animé.

Monkey: Journey to the West created a sensation when it premiered at the first Manchester International Festival in England in 2007. It was then performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Spoleto Festival USA, followed by performances at the Royal Opera House in London.

Brad Lubman (conductor)

Singer/songwriter/producer Damon Albarn is the recipient of four Brits, two Ivor Novello Awards and a Grammy Award. His second opera Dr Dee, co-created with Rufus Norris, premiered at Manchester International Festival in 2011. In addition to his work with Blur and Gorillaz, Albarn has released a number of recordings, including Mali Music (2002), The Good The Bad and The Queen (2006), Monkey: Journey to the West (2007), Rocket Juice & The Moon (2012) and Dr Dee (2012). He has also produced music for Gorillaz, Amadou and Mariam, written music for film soundtracks, and most recently co-produced Bobby Womack’s current album The Bravest Man in The Universe. Albarn formed Africa Express, a collective of African and Western musicians in 2007, and toured the UK with them aboard a train last September as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Creator of comic book series Tank Girl and co-creator of Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett has forged a distinctive visual style and a unique place in British pop culture. Tank Girl was his first major commercial success. Hewlett also conceived the visual concept behind the several-million-selling, multi-award-winning virtual band Gorillaz, which won him the Design Museum’s Designer of the Year Award in 2006. Other projects include the Bafta award-winning titles for the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Chen Shi-Zheng 陳士爭

Chen Shi-Zheng directed the epic Peony Pavilion for Lincoln Center Festival 99 and subsequently staged three other productions for the Festival: The Night Banquet, 2002; The Orphan of Zhao, 2003; and My Life as a Fairytale, 2005. His other opera credits include Monteverdi’s Orfeo with English National Opera; Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for the Spoleto Festival USA; Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Aix-en Provence Festival; Miss Fortune at the Royal Opera House in London; and Nixon in China for Theatre du Châtelet in Paris. His first film, Dark Matter, won the Sundance Film Festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Award. For Festival 2013, he is also directing the chamber opera, Matsukaze (Wind in the Pines) by Toshio Hosokawa.

*About Gorillaz
A truly global phenomenon, Gorillaz—singer 2D, bassist Murdoc Niccals, Japanese guitar prodigy Noodle and drummer Russel Hobbs—has achieved ground-breaking success in in popular music, and was recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act.

Put together by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the band’s eponymous debut album was released to wide acclaim in 2001. Three studio albums, Gorillaz (2001), Demon Days (2005) and Plastic Beach (2010) featured collaborations with a wide array of artists including Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Lou Reed and Dennis Hopper.

Gorillaz has topped the charts around the world, hitting #1 in more than a dozen countries and garnering sales in excess of 13 million. The band has also received influential awards and recognition that reach beyond music including a Grammy and an Ivor Novello, a Webby Award and a Designer of the Year Award for Jamie Hewlett, and the Jim Henson Creativity Honor.

Monkey: Journey to the West performance schedule: Saturday, July 6 at 8 p.m. (preview).; Sunday, July 7 at 2 and 8 p.m. (previews); Tuesday, July 9 at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, July 10 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, July 11 at 8 p.m.; Friday, July 12 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 13 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 14 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Tuesday, July 16 at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, July 17 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, July 18 at 8 p.m.; Friday, July 19 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 20 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 21 at 2 and 8 p.m.; Tuesday, July 23 at 8 p.m.; Wednesday, July 24 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, July 25 at 8 p.m.; Friday, July 26 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 27 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, July 28 at 2 and 8 p.m.

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Tan Dun 譚盾

Yuxi Jin 靳羽西

Shirley Young and granddaughter

Nigel Redden (Director of the Lincoln Center Festival) , Chen Shi-Zheng 陳士爭

Chen Shi-Zheng 陳士爭 with Jack Dong 董曉軍

Marcus Samuelsson

The Jaffe Family (Elliot and Susan Jaffe with their grand-daughter, Alexandra Jaffe)

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