Symphonic Beijing Opera Delights Opera Fans
Violins, Oboes and Beijing Opera
seems to be a strange combination, but the successful integration of a
symphony orchestra and Beijing Opera Sunday delighted the audience in
Beijing, the home of the traditional Chinese opera.
Invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, the University of
Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra from the United States is here as part
of the "Meet in Beijing" Arts Festival. The orchestra accompanied
Chinese artist Sun Ping singing three modern pieces of Beijing Opera
Professor Zheng Xiaoyun, director of Center for Arts Education of
Qinghua University, said, "It's wonderful that foreigners are able to
understand and demonstrate traditional Chinese culture. I believe the
attempt will help develop Beijing Opera in modern times."
In fact, Chinese tried performing the opera with western
instruments during the period of the 1960s and 70s and the symphony
orchestra-accompanied Beijing Opera prevailed for a decade. But the
kind of opera gave way to traditional performance of the opera in the
following two decades.
Encouraged by former Chinese ambassador to the United States Li
Zhaoxing, the Beijing Opera Artist Sun Ping started collaborating with
the University of Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra in 2000.
To her great surprise, the performer who has been engaged in
Beijing Opera for 30 years discovered that the oboe was able to take
the place of the Jinghu, major instruments in the opera.
Ricardo Averbach, conductor of the Symphony Orchestra, said that
Beijing Opera is unique in form and the singer is always free to change
tempo, which challenges orchestra members to play at the same speed.
"Sometimes, I have to give up following the music score but follow
Sun's tone in her singing," he said. "It's almost incredible for a
After three months of rehearsals, the orchestra made their debut in
Philadelphia on March 29 and the performance turned out to be a
Averbach said that it is the first time in the century-long history
of the university orchestra that it has combined with the Chinese
"I'm trying to do this hoping to learn more about the prime Chinese
art," said Averbach, who added the Jinghu and Pipa, two traditional
Chinese musical instruments, to the performance in Beijing to make
more authentic Beijing Opera.
Henry A. Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, sent a letter
to the University of Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, saying, "You
have already made a valuable contribution to the enjoyment and
appreciation of China's great musical tradition by presenting an
acclaimed program earlier this spring that integrated classical
Western music with that of the Beijing Opera. "
"As a music lover and believer in cross-cultural exchange and
understanding as a significant factor in the resolution of tensions
among nations, I applaud this important step you have taken,"
Kissinger said in the letter.
Averbach hopes to devote himself to developing the two art forms
into a new one in a couple of years. "The final goal is to create big
interest in the western world. When Beijing Opera is more accessible,
western audiences will go back to the roots of the traditional Chinese
Sun Ping said that she and the university orchestra will start
working on the symphonic Beijing Opera musical "Butterfly Lovers". The
music will be jointly written by composers from China and the United
-- source: xinhuanet
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