Clas­si­cal re­dux

Bei­jing Mu­sic Fes­ti­val adapt­spts to lure back au­di­ence, spon­sorssors

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at chen­jie@chi­

Western clas­si­cal mu­sic in China to­day faces big chal­lenges from new tech­nol­ogy, new me­dia and modern life­styles. When the Bei­jing Mu­sic Fes­ti­val was launched in 1998, all the con­certs were sold out be­cause fans were ea­ger to see mae­stros and top or­ches­tras per­form live.

But now, as Bei­jing hosts dif­fer­ent types of mu­sic fes­ti­vals and de­vel­ops more live venues, giv­ing au­di­ences a chance to see a va­ri­ety of per­for­mances, the BMF, the pioneer, is los­ing out just as clas­si­cal mu­sic it­self is los­ing its al­lure.

To face this chal­lenge, the BMF is adapt­ing its pro­grams to lure back au­di­ences as well as the spon­sors.

From Oct 9 to 29, the BMF will present 30 per­for­mances, be­sides lec­tures, work­shops, mas­ter classes and kids’ con­certs.

More than half of the events will be held in San­l­i­tun, Bei­jing’s trendy ur­ban en­clave.

One of the venues is The Orange at San­l­i­tun South, which BMF has used for the past fewyears.

The other is a new one called The Red, which houses an art space, a pri­vate club and fa­cil­i­ties for cham­ber mu­sic.

“The pur­pose of the fes­ti­val is to share clas­si­cal mu­sic with more peo­ple. Some­how, to some peo­ple, clas­si­cal mu­sic is a world far re­moved from their own,” says Tu Song, the BMF pro­gram direc­tor.

“They feel that high­brow mu­sic in for­mal halls has noth­ing to do with their lives. We are try­ing to change that and of­fer a va­ri­ety of mu­sic, not only the se­ri­ous sym­phonies. We want to make it eas­ier for au­di­ences, es­pe­cially young peo­ple who like nightlife.”

The Red will see two mul­ti­me­dia mu­sic pro­duc­tions— a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of Mozart’s opera Don Gio­vanni and Fugi­tive, mu­sic theater based on Schu­bert’s song cy­cle Win­ter Jour­ney ( Die Win­ter­reise).

Silent Opera from Bri­tain prom­ises to “bring you opera as you’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore”.

Speak­ing about Don Gio­vanni, Daisy Evans, the artist direc­tor, says it is an “opera for the next gen­er­a­tion”.

Don Gio­vanni is a de­con­structed and reimag­ined ver­sion of Mozart’s clas­sics. Us­ing dig­i­tal sound, live ma­nip­u­la­tion and elec­tronic sam­pling, Mozart’s mu­sic is brought hurtling into the dig­i­tal age.

Win­ter Jour­ney was com­posed by Schu­bert to a set­ting of 24 poems by Wil­helm Muller. The poems tell of how the poet lost his lover in the cold win­ter. They use a dis­tinct nar­ra­tive and dra­matic se­quence.

For the pro­duc­tion, Chi­nese bass-bari­tone Shen Yang sings while Shao Lu per­forms on the pi­ano.

For the show, direc­tor Zou Shuang has cre­ated a unique space that com­bines mu­sic, theater and the movies.

“As the clas­si­cal song cy­cle may be bor­ing for to­day’s au­di­ences, what we do is to cre­ate a scene in which singer per­forms the role with a sim­ple set­ting and a video back­ground to let the au­di­ence ex­pe­ri­ence the story, so that they feel the poet’s story,” Zou says.

As for Shen, 32, who won the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Com­pe­ti­tion and made his Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera de­but in April 2009, he was the first Chi­nese bari­tone to record Win­ter Jour­ney in 2006.

With re­gard to the pro­grams at The Orange, the venue will see two jazz con­certs.

On Oct 13, An­dreas Ot­ten­samer, the 27-year-old Aus­trian clar­inetist and the prin­ci­pal clar­inetist of the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic will play Pi­az­zola’s mu­sic with Ar­gen­tine pi­anist Jose Gal­lardo.

An­don Oct 14, a Swedish R&B funk and jazz trom­bone player Nils Land­gren will per­form with pi­anist Eric Staiger, bassist Lisa Re­becka Wulf and drum­mer Wolf­gang Haffner.

An­other con­cert at The Orange will be on Oct 18 when Chi­nese pipa (Chi­nese lute) player Wu Man per­forms with a spe­cial band that in­cludes a Ugan­dan mu­si­cian James Makubuya, who plays sev­eral tra­di­tional in­stru­ments from the coun­try. They in­clude the (an eight-stringed bowl lyre), the (a nine-stringed bow harp), the (a one-stringed tube fiddle) and the (a 12-slab log xy­lo­phone).

The band also in­cludes Lee Knight, an Amer­i­can folk singer and sto­ry­teller, who plays the banjo, the Ap­palachian dul­cimer and the mouth bow.

Among the BMF’s other of­fer­ings are Ben­jamin Brit­ten’s opera A Mid­sum­mer

Night’s Dream and per­for­mances by the Czech Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra un­der Jiri Belohlavek and the Tchaikovsky Sym­phony Or­ches­tra con­ducted by Vladimir Fe­doseyev.

A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, which is a trib­ute mark­ing the 400th an­niver­sary of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s death, is co­pro­duced with the Fes­ti­val d’Aix-en-Provence, with which the BMF has signed a five-year con­tract.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the agree­ment, Yu Long, founder and artis­tic direc­tor of the BMF, says: “The Fes­ti­val d’Aix-en-Provence (an an­nual in­ter­na­tional mu­sic fes­ti­val held in Provence, France) is mainly de­voted to op­eras, and the BMF is also ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing opera in China. So, we share the same val­ues.”

Speak­ing about Brit­ten’s show, which is be­ing per­formed out­side Europe for the first time, Yusays: “It’s his trade­mark work. Fes­ti­val d’Aix-en-Provence pre­miered it in 1991 and re­vived it last year to mark the 150th an­niver­sary of the Bard’s birth.”

The fes­ti­val ends on Oct 29, when the Hong Kong Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra per­forms at the Poly Theater un­der Dutch con­duc­tor Jaap van Zwe­den. The con­cert will also fea­ture Chi­nese vi­o­lin­ist Yang Tianwa.


The opera AMid­sum­merNight’sDream by Ben­jamin Brit­ten, a lead­ing Bri­tish com­poser of the mid-20th cen­tury, will be among the 30 per­for­mances pre­sented dur­ing the Bei­jing Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, which runs from Oct 9 to 29.

Mae­stro Jiri Belohlavek with the Czech Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra.

Rus­sian con­duc­tor Vladimir Fe­doseyev (left) will lead the Tchaikovsky Sym­phony Or­ches­tra to in­ter­pret Tchaikovsky in three con­certs, and Chi­nese con­duc­tor Tan Dun (right) will take the ba­ton of the Guangzhou Sym­phony Or­ches­tra to present FarewellMyCon­cu­bine.

Dutch com­poser of con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal mu­sic Michel van der Aa’s BlankOut will stage its Asian pre­miere dur­ing the Bei­jing Mu­sic Fes­ti­val at The Orange at San­l­i­tun South.

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