The Grawemeyer Prize awards outstanding works in contemporary music, and recognizes ideas and works that “help make the world a better place”. Tan Dun was awarded the Grawemeyer Prize for his opera, Marco Polo.
Marco Polo (1992-96) features a libretto by Paul Griffiths, author of the novel Myself and Marco Polo (1989). In Marco Polo, Tan Dun sought to discover a 21st-century form for opera – one that incorporates multiple languages, cultures and time periods, Eastern and Western operatic traditions, and varied musical styles to create an authentically international genre. Marco uses the famed 13th-century Italian traveler as a metaphor to explore the meaning of “journey” on several levels. Its formal structure presents three journeys – spiritual/psychological, physical/geographical, and musical – within two “operas” that gradually amalgamate to a common goal.