Year of the Snake gets the classical treatment

Chinese opera stars head to Melbourne for the New Year - just don’t expect the Blue Danube.

In a trans-cultural first, Melbourne will celebrate the Year of the Snake with a Chinese New Year’s Day Concert showcasing some of China’s hottest opera talent. Star singers from China’s leading opera houses perform a mix of Puccini, Rossini, Mozart and Gounod alongside classical Chinese arias and popular folk songs. Joining them will be guest Australian soprano Greta Bradman and Orchestra Victoria.

“Singing alongside the Chinese tenors is an incredible thrill,” Bradman told Limelight. “They are such superstars of the operatic world in China and have a wealth of experience between them. I'm humbled by their good humour, grace and excitement about being in Australia.”

In a bid to outdo Messrs. Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras, Melbourne will be getting no less than four of China’s leading tenors. Chi Liming has been heralded by Western media as “the most promising tenor in the world” while Xue Haoyin was the winner of the 2005 Royal Opera House Young Artists Competition. Both have appeared on numerous world stages. Their singing mates are Gu Xin, President of the China Oriental Performing Arts Group and Yang Yang, recognised in 2012 by China Central Television as one of the country’s top ten tenors. Leading the concert will be China National Opera House conductor Zhu Man, one of the most dynamic young female conductors in China today.

Bradman has even learnt a well-known Chinese folk song, In A Faraway Place, complete with Chinese intonations and inflections. “Getting the words a week out from the concert means that every minute counts’, she said “but the opportunity to sing a Chinese folk song for the occasion feels so right and I’ve wanted to sing a song in Mandarin for so long. One has to simply believe in the possibility of learning the text, trust in one's training and experience and just go for it.”

In a reciprocal musical deal the Chinese tenors have mastered Bradman’s choice, Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda, in a special new arrangement by Gordon Hamilton. New arrangements are unusual in China and could prove a stretch for the Chinese singers who have been frantically rehearsing the song back home in China.

For this rare initiative, The People’s Republic of China Ministry of Culture and the Shanghai Municipal Government have joined financial and artistic forces with the Shanghai International Arts Festival and the China National Opera House. This will be the China Shanghai International Arts Festival’s first concert outside of China.

The Chinese New Year’s Day Concert is at Melbourne Recital Centre on Sunday February 10 at 3pm.

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Year of the Snake gets the classical treatment
Gu Xin: one of four star Chinese tenors on route to Melbourne.
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Gu Xin: one of four star Chinese tenors on route to Melbourne.
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