Angel's Bone

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Angel's Bone is an opera by composer Du Yun and librettist Royce Vavrek in one act that follows the plight of two angels discovered on earth who are forced into spiritual and sexual slavery at the hands of a financially troubled couple. The work is a contemporary parable[1] that explores the dark effects behind modern-day slavery, and human trafficking and probes the psyche of traffickers.[2] Du Yun draws her inspiration from a range of musical genres – from classical to punk to the cabaret.[3]


Angel's Bone follows the plight of two angels whose nostalgia for earthly delights has, mysteriously, brought them back to our world. Battered and bruised from their long journey, they are found by a husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. X.E.

Facing a financial crisis, the couple had grown far apart. The unspoken aggression between them is palpable. Nevertheless, when they find the fallen cherubs in their garden, Mr. and Mrs. X.E. Set out to nurse the wounded angels back to health.

They bathe them, wash the dirt from their nails and lock them in a room, leaving them in a claw-foot bathtub for a bed. They then decide to exploit the magical beings, clipping their wings and forcing them into prostitution to earn back their plucked feathers.[4]

Roles and performance history[edit]

The original 35-minute chamber version of “Angel’s Bone” was commissioned by the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and directed by Habib Azar.[5]

Julian Wachner conducted the world premiere performance of the full-length opera with Novus NY and the Trinity Wall Street Choir.[6] The production, which opened on January 6, 2016, at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in Greenwich Street, Lower Manhattan, as part of the Prototype Festival in New York City, was directed by Michael McQuilken[6] and co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and Trinity Wall Street.[7][6]

Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Roles Voice type 35-minute Chamber Premiere, 2011 Premiere cast, 6 January 2016
Mrs. X.E. mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chin Abigail Fischer
Mr. X.E. baritone Royce Vavrek Kyle Pfortmiller[8]
Boy Angel tenor Peter Tantsits Kyle Bielfield
Girl Angel vocalist Du Yun Jennifer Charles
Man on the TV baritone n/a Thomas McCargar[9]
Female Customer/TV Host soprano n/a Melanie Russell

Performance time: about 80 minutes[6]

The opera's premiere in Asia took place on 10 November 2018 at the Kwai Tsing Theatre in Hong Kong during the New Vision Art Festival .[10] The Ventura College streamed a production in January 2021.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

"Du Yun's audacious and searing Angel's Bone. It's an appallingly good work when you consider that it takes on the subject of child trafficking and mixes in elements of magic realism and a musical cocktail of Renaissance polyphony, electronica, Modernism, punk rock and cabaret ... The director, Michael McQuilken, drew courageous and memorable performances from all." Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times.[12]

"Angel's Bone is a mature and complex work. It is a fable inside an allegory and its soundscape ranges across the history of Western music." Natalie Axton, Hyperallergic.[13]

"Disturbing, powerful and original, effectively using electronics and video, the opera ended with the evil wife tearfully pleading her case on daytime TV, adding the final nail of credibility to a work that gave me nightmares, yet one that I would nonetheless see again." Anne Midgette, The Washington Post.[14]

"Mezzo Abigail Fischer's wonderfully pitiless demeanor and chilly coloratura set up a Lady Macbeth-like Mrs. X.E.; Kyle Pfortmiller brought out the brutish insecurity of her husband, so easily persuaded to do her dirty work. Kyle Bielfield's wide vocal range and sweetness embodied the heartbreaking innocence of the Boy Angel; as the Girl Angel, Jennifer Charles's nonclassical voice scraped and howled against an electronic score, making her pain excruciatingly audible." Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal.[15]

The opera received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Pulitzer jury described the piece as a bold work "that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world."[16] Du Yun is the first Asian woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music.[2]


  • Abigail Fischer (Mrs. X.E.), Kyle Pfortmiller (Mr. X.E.), Jennifer Charles (Girl Angel), Kyle Bielfield (Boy Angel), Thomas McCargar (Man on the TV), Melanie Russell (Female Customer/TV Host), Choir of Trinity Wall Street, NOVUS NY, recorded at National Sawdust, Williamsburg, New York, conducted by Julian Wachner. Label: VIA Records 2017.[17]


  1. ^ "Opera takes new look at trafficking – Angel's Bone explores complexities of culprits". Arab Times. 9 January 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-03-17. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  2. ^ a b "Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Du Yun to present Angel's Bone". Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. November 2, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Du Yun's Pulitzer-winning trafficking opera comes to Hong Kong". South China Morning Post. 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  4. ^ Vavrek, Royce. "Synopsis". la opera. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d "Angel's Bone production details". 2016-01-06. Archived from the original on 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  7. ^ Trinity of Wall Street Choir, NOVUS NY, Wachner, Julian. National Sawdust. 2017, compact disc.
  8. ^ "Kyle Pfortmiller". Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  9. ^ Thomas McCargar (Baritone) - Short biography
  10. ^ "Angel's Bone – New Vision Arts Festival 2018". Retrieved 2020-02-19.
  11. ^ "Upcoming Performances – Angel's Bone by Du Yun". January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  12. ^ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim (7 January 2016). "In Angel's Bone, Terrified Seraphim at the Mercy of Mortals". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  13. ^ "An Opera About Plucking and Pimping Fallen Angels". 2016-01-11. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  14. ^ Midgette, Anne (2012-12-14). "At an opera festival, tales of drug cartels. At opera houses, same old song". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2016-01-21. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  15. ^ Waleson, Heidi (2016-01-11). "Dystopia on Stage at Prototype Festival". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2016-01-31. Retrieved 2016-01-31.(subscription required)
  16. ^ "Angel's Bone, by Du Yun, The Pulitzer Prizes. Columbia University. Accessed February 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "Angel's Bone (2017)", album

External links[edit]