From the earliest days, many have wondered how Tan Dun and the Metropolitan Opera would fit together. Met insiders affectionately, even proudly, refer to their institution as rigid, as schedule-bound as a railroad. But Mr. Tan is an intellectually restless composer and innovator who says he works with the aid of spirits who send him notes on the score. He describes himself as a shaman, moving easily between the spirit and the visible worlds. He believes that water talks to birds that sing to him.
Both the Met and Mr. Tan are gambling that an apparent culture clash will create something that will appeal to the new, younger audiences that the Met craves without turning off the Puccini set or alienating the traditionalists who tend to be the Met’s biggest patrons.