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THE BIG SWIM (2023) - a family-friendly opera for lunar new year festivities

Librettist: Melisa Tien

Instrumentation: for soprano, 2 mezzo-sopranos, tenor, baritone, bass, flute (doubling piccolo & alto flute), violin, violoncello, contrabass, piano, percussion 

Duration: 60'

Commissioners: Houston Grand Opera and Asia Society Texas Center

World Premiere: To be premiered in February 2024 at the Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX.



The Big Swim is a one-act comic opera in three parts with an earnest message at its core. It tells the story of a swimming competition held during Lunar New Year between twelve animals specially chosen by the Emperor. Each one will have a place in the lunar zodiac, and thus be instrumental in marking the passage of time. However, not every animal is competitive by nature. Over the course of what is meant to be a casual race, the animals are tested not only on speed, but on how far they’ll go to help or hinder one another.

The music for The Big Swim is a contemporary amalgam of different stylistic influences, including opera buffa and Chinese traditional opera, with elements of fantasy and absurdity. Its expansive musical language and eclecticism aim to promote artistic and aesthetic inclusion, and intentionally cross boundaries between traditional and modern, Eastern and Western, classical and non-classical. The music enhances the piece’s drama and character development while providing a feeling of familiarity through which audiences may access the performance.

-- Melisa Tien & Meilina Tsui 


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