Singing the praises of one mu­si­cal life

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By SHARMILA DEVI For China Daily

When Wang Beibei sang a fa­mous aria from Puc­cini’s opera Madame But­ter­fly re­cently, you could hear a pin drop, even though she was singing in a room full of talk­a­tive lin­guists.

Wang said the per­for­mance last month at the first birth­day party of the UK China As­so­ci­a­tion of Lin­guists, in the hall of the Law So­ci­ety in cen­tral Lon­don, was in front of in­vited diplo­mats and guests mark­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion’s work in ex­plor­ing lan­guage and so­ci­ety.

Wang has achieved no small mea­sure of fame in Europe and China for her so­prano singing, af­ter hav­ing stud­ied mu­sic in Mi­lan, Birm­ing­ham and Lon­don, where she now lives.

She sees a life­time ahead of per­fect­ing her art and be­ing a mes­sen­ger of cul­tural ex­change be­tween China and Europe.

“In a way, mu­si­cians have to grow up quickly if they are to in­ter­pret and un­der­stand the mu­sic they are per­form­ing,” she says. “I’ve met so many amaz­ing mu­si­cians who sound much older than they look.” a Chi­nese singer liv­ing in Lon­don

She knew by the age of five that she wanted to be a mu­si­cian.

“My fam­ily was very mu­si­cal al­though none of them was pro­fes­sional,” she says. “They loved mu­sic, played very well and were happy when I de­cided to pur­sue mu­sic as a ca­reer be­cause they never had the op­por­tu­nity to do this.”

She be­lieves her par­ents are proud of her suc­cess but “they are typ­i­cal Chi­nese par­ents in that they would never say that. They en­cour­age me by say­ing to im­prove this or to im­prove that! They are very strict, it’s part of the cul­ture.”

She was born in Nanyang in He­nan prov­ince but, when she was four, her fam­ily moved to the city of Shen­zhen, near Hong Kong. Her fa­ther was a lawyer while her mother worked for the lo­cal gov­ern­ment on cul­tural re­la­tions.

“When the gov­ern­ment was de­vel­op­ing and pro­mot­ing Shen­zhen, my par­ents de­cided to move be­cause they were young and liked a chal­lenge,” she says.

She re­ceived her bach­e­lor’s de­gree from the Xing­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic and then she sang for three years as a soloist with the Shen­zhen Mu­si­cian As­so­ci­a­tion.

“At Shen­zhen, I was cho­sen as the main singer for an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Vi­enna and was awarded a gold medal, so I was able to get in touch with peo­ple on the in­ter­na­tional stage,” she says. “Peo­ple said that I had a beau­ti­ful op­er­atic voice and I was told I should de­velop my voice. As an opera singer, you need time to build a reper­toire and I was en­cour­aged by se­nior mu­si­cians.”

She speaks English, Ital­ian, Man­darin and Can­tonese. But thanks to mu­sic, she can sing in French, Ger­man, Rus­sian and Czech.

“This is nor­mal for opera singers,” she says mod­estly.

Ital­ian is her fa­vorite lan­guage, mainly be­cause Italy is the birth place of opera and so many op­eras are in the lan­guage.

“It’s the fa­vorite lan­guage of all singers be­cause nearly all the words end in a vowel, mak­ing bel canto or singing beau­ti­fully, much eas­ier as in­structed on the score,” she says.

She spent three years in Mi­lan study­ing with Ital­ian so­prano Maria Luisa Cioni and Ni­co­letta Zanini from the La Scala opera house, con­sid­ered by many to be the home of opera.

“I was able to study at the world’s top level be­cause Italy has kept its tra­di­tions, even if it is now a mod­ern coun­try,” she says.

Af­ter win­ning a schol­ar­ship, she moved to the Birm­ing­ham Con­ser­va­toire for her master’s in mu­sic, and to study with one of her fa­vorite singers, in­ter­na­tional so­prano He­len Field.

In 2013, she gained her post­grad­u­ate diploma in solo per­for­mance with dis­tinc­tion at the Royal North­ern Col­lege of Mu­sic in Manch­ester, and then stud­ied for her artist diploma at the Trin­ity La­ban Con­serva- toire of Mu­sic in Lon­don.

As well as con­stantly seek­ing to ex­tend her reper­toire, Wang has set up the East-West Arts Ini­tia­tive, which has brought to­gether in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians to in­tro­duce clas­si­cal mu­sic to a wider au­di­ence. It also in­tro­duces West­ern singers to China and seeks to en­sure Chi­nese per­form­ers get ex­po­sure in the UK.

In a way, mu­si­cians have to grow up quickly if they are to in­ter­pret and un­der­stand the mu­sic they are per­form­ing.”


not only sings opera but works to en­sure artists from China get to work in West­ern mar­kets.

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