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Winner of the George Butterword Award for "an outstanding new work" and described by Schmopera as "a rich tapestry", Untold is an anti-opera exploring British-Chinese identity through music and movement. In particular, it hopes to show the vitality and heterogeneity of Chinese transnational experience, demonstrating how it can reinvent musical genres such as opera as well as shed light on how Chinese diaspora navigate the complex cultural spaces in diverse and unique ways.

Long before Cinderella, there was Ye Xian. Undeniably one of the most well read European fairy tales, Cinderella follows the life of a young woman who is abused by her stepmother until she is set free by her fairy godmother and a charming prince. Considered to have been first transcribed in the 17th century by Italian writer Giambattista Basile, this tale is in truth one version of a much older story, found in different cultures around the world throughout history. One of these predecessors is the Tang Dynasty story of Ye Xian (叶限 or 葉限), set in southern China and originally documented in an anthology written by Duan Chengshi in the early 9th century.


Untold retells the story of Ye Xian by integrating contemporary classical music, movement, and Chinese and western instruments into an immersive experience that blends genres, art-forms, and cultures.. While the original Chinese tale follows an arc many of us might recognise, Untold reveals a few new twists.

"[I]t was a very special evening: sincere, unpretentious, inclusive, inspired and inspiring...[The] juxtaposition of Chinese and Western idioms and cultures was simply brilliant in its delivery."

- David Gowland, Artistic Director of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at Royal Opera House


"I felt like I was watching both an ancient form of performance whilst at the same time witnessing an entirely new form of music theatre emerge. I loved it."

- Michael McCarthy MBE, Artistic Director of Music Theatre Wales

Alex Ho - Co-director, composer, co-producer

Julia Cheng (Ye Xian) - Co-director, choreographer, dancer

Naomi Woo - Dramaturg

Keith Pun (Fish/King) - Counter-tenor

Daniel Shao (Step-sibling 1) - Flute

Reylon Yount (Step-sibling 2) - Yangqin, co-producer

Beibei Wang (Stepmother) - Percussion

Erin Guan - Set and costume design

Raycher Phua - Lighting design

You may also be interested in Spiralling Scrolls.

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Dancer, counter-tenor, flute, yangqin, percussion, piano

Duration: 45'

Supported by: Sound and Music, Help Musicians UK, Arts Council England, Snape Maltings, RVW Trust, PRS Foundation, The London Community Foundation, and The Cockayne Foundation

Premiered by: Julia Cheng, Keith Pun, and Tangram at Hackney Round Chapel in November 2019

Other: Winner of the George Butterworth Award 2020 (interview)

Back to List of Works

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