Chinese musical ready for grand presentation at Beijing festival
Suitcases, snow, a red sofa, wooden stairs and a raven come together in The Fugitive, a multimedia musical production. This is a world where the late Austrian composer Franz Schubert’s famous piece Winter Journey — about a poet pining for his lost love in the cold and gradually dying— mixes with images based on German poet Wilhelm Mueller’s words.
As part of the ongoing Beijing Music Festival, which was launched in 1998 as a major celebration of classical music, the show will be staged on Friday at an art house in the city.
“It has inspired artists of different generations and from different fields to create, to celebrate its legacy. That’s why we want to interpret Winter Journey in our own production,” says the director Zou Shuang, who developed the idea of The Fugitive over a cup of coffee with Chinese baritone Shen Yang.
As they talked about the production, they realized that the central role of the man, whomournsfor his lost love, connects with them, Zou says.
“Each of us has a journey in life. It’s hard to separate ourselves from him. That’s the most compelling thing we found while making the musical,” she adds.
She says that although the production was inspired by Schubert’s music, Zou wants to widen the scope and offer a whole new experience to the audience by combining classical music, dance, theater and technology.
The production team includes the multimedia designer Karl Klomp from theNetherlands, set designer Han Jiang and sound designer Zhang Ziqian from China.
Shen says Winter Journey is one of his favorite music pieces. The 32-year-old is the first Chinese baritone to record it in 2006. Shen won the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition
It’s not physically challenging but mentally exhausting to perform the piece.” musical baritone of the
TheFugitive and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in April 2009.
Shen sings in Zou’s production as well.
“It’s not physically challenging but mentally exhausting to perform the piece,” says Shen.
The singer also notes that Winter Journey was composed at the end of Schubert’s short life. He died in 1828, aged 31. During his active career, Schubert composed more than 600 songs.
“The process of performing the role is like practicing tai chi. I try to use my strength from within, not just the techniques I learned,” Shen says.
In the musical, the singer will also interact with a dancer, who does popping (a form of street dance), to the music of Schubert. For Shen, it’s an experiment both for them and the audience.
“The dancer represents freedom that could be a spirit in the melancholic poet’s head,” Shen says.
Every year Beijing Music Festival commissions young directors and artists to create newworks.
“This production is a big step forward for us because it celebrates musical legacyand innovation,” saysTuSong, the festival’s program director.
7:30 pm, Oct 28. The Red, Taikoo Li Sanlitun North, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 400-610-3721.