Chinese Western Opera Stars Coming of Age

Chinese Western Opera Stars Coming of Age

Most of the average men & women in the street have never been to a night at the opera, or stepped into the grandeur of the Opera Houses in the world like The Vienna Opera House, Royal Opera House Covent Garden London, Paris National Opera House, Metropolitan Opera House New York, or the Sydney Opera House. A night there in any of those Opera Houses with real life tenors, sopranos, altos & contraltos will be a lifetime experience.

3491119840_f434542623Vienna Opera House

However, in modern times, with the availability of the multi-media, we have been privileged to hear “The Three Tenors” in the persons of Luciano Pavarotti (deceased), Jose Carreras & Domingo. The appearance of the three great tenors singing together has contributed much to the popularity of the opera. Most people are also familiar with The Phantom of the Opera, the stage musical & movie made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The original novel by Gaston Leroux tells of a disfigured musical genius (Gerald Butler) who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House.

My romance with the opera stretched back to my early school years in Taiping, Malaysia where we were taught simple appreciation of the classical music. Names of Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli & Björling, the legendary three tenors, come to mind vividly. Caruso with his famous rendering of Verdi’s Rigoletto “La Donna e Mobile” (better known in English as “Woman is Fickle”) was featured in a film by Mario Lanza. As a school cinema operator, with the carbon arc screening 35 mm projector, which by now must be long obsolete, I used to enjoy such great musical shows, and would you believe it, I used to have the voice of Caruso in the my ancient “wire recorder”- a souvenir from the war years.

This afternoon, Hunan Satellite TV presented a tremendous opera program featuring three tenors & three sopranos who have made their talent felt on the world stage. They were demonstrating the unique style of opera singing and what a difference with the conventional pop singing.

Australia’s answer to the famous Three Tenors are the Chinese Trio – Hao Zhou, Stephen Wu & Shidi Chen who came together in early 1990s and were first invited to sing as part of Sydney’s bid for the 2000 Olympics. Since that time the group has performed across Australia as well as in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. They have migrated to Australia charming & amazing audiences with their songs in Italian, French, German, English and Chinese, all in the one program.

3ct09

It’s universally contended that authentic western opera can only be found in Europe. But another tenor Ding Yi has broken both the tradition & the mould. He’s made a place for himself on the world stage, while maintaining his strong foothold in his native mainland China. It’s been a long hard road.

Born of a composer father & a soprano mother . . . the teacher was telling him he lacked the talent to be a good opera singer. Doctor told him he should stabilize his voice with controlling his Adam’s apple.

“Concert of Chinese and Foreign Classic Songs” was performed at the Shenzhen Grand Theatre. Of the dozen singers, the most admired was Ding Yi, a tenor who the MC said is the No 1 singer at the Central Opera House in Beijing. He was certainly good. He and another soprano, Ma Mei (who was great too) wound up the concert with a duet from the famous Madame Butterfly.

Opera Arts described him as “a tenor that has made Italian directors sit up.” He has numerically represented China on the world stage & winning awards & praiseworthy criticism. At home, he is equally in demand whether it’s public or charity performance.

China with a pool of 1.3 billion people & millions taking up music, it goes without saying how much more impact the Chinese tenors & sopranos will have on the world stage. It will only be a question of time.

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent

Friday, 17 July 2009

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