Beijing Music Festival adaptspts to lure back audience, sponsorssors
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.