iSING! 's first Western opera in Suzhou




iSING! Suzhou 2017 International Young Artists Festival held its finale on August 27 at Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre. The 43 talented young vocal artists from 15 countries presented the Suzhou audience a tasteful musical feast with well-selected songs.

The first half of the performance was ‘Gianni Schicchi’, a fully staged one-act opera from Giacomo Puccini. It was the first time that the Western opera had been brought onto the Suzhou stage. After the intermission, the singers showed off the results of 35 days of Chinese lessons by singing 14 Chinese songs, including folk songs, once omnipresent pop songs, songs from Chinese operas and modern Peking opera. All songs are coherent with one theme:‘love’, demonstrating all the amiable feelings among friends, lovers and family members.

“We hope this one-act opera will give the Suzhou audience a taste of an art form that is recognized as the highest form of performing art in the music world,” said Martha Liao, president of the Asian Performing Arts Council and general director of iSING! International Young Artists Festival.

Noticeably, there was a Hungarian singer, Gyula Rab, who played Yang Zirong in the song‘Happy Spring Awakening’from the modern Peking opera ‘The Siege of Tiger Mountain’, which adopted many techniques from Peking opera including both vocal and body movements, and thus posedgreat challenges on the singer.

“I had the honor to work with two people from the Beijing Opera House, who taught me some traditional movements. I have to say some of the movements are really challenging to put together. Of course, my movement wasn’t perfect, because I was just beginning, and Peking opera singers start to learn from 13 or 14 years old. But I think the whole idea is so beautiful,” said Gyula.

“Peking opera is a very different style, and there was a lot to get used to. With my piece, the pitch is very long and high, so getting the words out correctly can be tricky, but it’s very rewarding,” said Penelope Makeig, a singer from the United States who performed 'Stay, Guest From Afar’.

Cai Jindong, a successful maestro who is active in the United States, conducted the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra for the night. “The newly established Suzhou Symphony Orchestra infused excitement and new vigor to this year’s iSING! festival, making it the most successful iSING! Suzhou yet,” said Zhou Xudong, deputy secretary of CPC Suzhou Industrial Park Working Committee and chairman of Suzhou Industrial Park Administrative Committee.

The audience was carried away with the excellent performance. They clapped their hands with the rhythm of the songs on many occasions and, at the end of the gala, they gave a thunderous standing ovation to the singers and other members of the iSING! group.

iSING! International Young Artists Festival is the first programin China dedicated to promoting the vocal arts and training exceptional vocal talents from China, the United States and other countries.

The 43 selected young singers in this year’s iSING program were part of a full-scholarship program, which offers intensive training in interpretation of the standard Western repertoire and Chinese modern opera, Mandarin diction and language.

Eddie Mofokeng, an artist from South Africa who played Betto in ‘Gianni Schicchi’ and performed a part in the song‘Olive Tree’ said, “The program was so interesting. You get so many other sides. We get used to the Western side and the African side. And now I’m learning the Chinese side. We have all made wonderful friendships with people from China, Africa, and America. It’s a huge honor to be here, meeting others, and learning about other cultures. You know it’s amazing that music brings us together. And it doesn’t matter where you come from; just like the art itself. I think it’s wonderful.”

iSING! Suzhou was not only amulticultural experience for those young artists who were selected into the program, but it also opened a window for Suzhou locals to experience a multicultural environment.

During their stay the artists met many local volunteers and they showed special thanks to them. Penelope said, “We met many wonderful volunteers. They were just so kind to us, so helpful, looking after our every need here. In the middle of the night if we sent a text saying,‘we need help!’ they would be there, around the clock.”

According to Tian Haojiang, the artistic director and creator of iSING! International Young Artists Festival, this year’s singers gave many performances in varied locations, such as a Puccini-theme mini concert at Suzhou Museum, a flash mob raid in offices in the CBD in SIP, and performances in open air plazas.

“In four years, iSING! has nurtured many audience members in Jiangsu. I think it is a good thing. I am an opera singer, and I always wanted to promote this art form to everyday people. It is what I am working on, ”said Tian Haojiang.

(Cai Qing/SuzhouDaily)

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