Chinese American singer delivers idea of U.S.-China cultural exchanges in operatic way

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1 (Xinhua) -- A veteran Chinese American opera bass singer who has played with New York's Metropolitan Opera for over 20 years is trying to deliver his grand idea of cementing a closer cultural bond between the Untied States and China in an operatic way.

Hao Jiang Tian, who has appeared in 26 operas at the Met Opera for more than 20 years, brought a group of Western tenors and sopranos to San Francisco for the first time to sing some of the most popular Chinese songs in a Western style to nearly 1,000 American and Chinese audience.

The Chinese and Western artists made a debut Saturday night in a concert, iSING! San Francisco with Hao Jiang Tian, that was staged as a fund-raiser for an eclectic program he had created to offer free training courses for young Western and Chinese young singers, who he said are trained to be a bridge for Western and Chinese people, especially the Americans, to know each other better.

Their one-and-half-hour performance, which presented a Western repertoire coupled with some of the most popular Chinese vocal works, blew the audience away at the Herbst Theatre, an auditorium in the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in downtown San Francisco on the U.S. west coast.

They sang La calunnia, an episode from the classical "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" (The Barber of Seville) by Gioachino Rossini, "Wie du warst" (Octavian's Aria) from Der Rosenkavalier by German composer Richard Strauss, and a number of well-sung Chinese masterpieces such as "Way to Heaven" that glorifies the stunning beauty of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, and "Stay, Guests from Afar," a folksong that celebrates the hospitality of the Yi ethnic group in Yunnan Province in southwest China.

Saturday's concert is part of iSING! Festival program, which was launched in 2011 to teach Western singers with little knowledge of the Chinese culture to bring an operatic flair to Chinese songs written in Mandarin as a "lyric language."

Tian wants the Western singers to integrate Chinese musical works with Western classical vocal technique and create a repertoire of Chinese lyricism interpreted with distinct Western sensitivities.

The iSING! Festival project is China's first international festival of vocal arts. More than 40 promising young artists from around the world who are picked from more than 800 applicants through rigorous audition will attend a month-long intensive training in language and cultural study in China.

"We have a team of at least 15 international experts including conductors, professionals, veteran vocal, body, language, and opera performance instructors from some famed opera houses around the world, including New York's Met Opera House," he said.

They receive language and voice lessons from the international coaches to sharpen their performance skills.

He said his free-training program was inspired by his own personal experience many years ago.

"During the past 30 plus years of my opera career, I received various kinds of help from numerous people both at home and abroad," said Tian, who was born in the 1950s in Beijing, capital of China.

"When I was a cash-starved student not long after I came to the U.S. in 1983, a well-known opera singer who taught me every week for five years running, all at no cost. This is an experience I would never forget," he said.

"Today, we are able to help others now, why should we not give some help to young artists, especially those opera singers? In the profession of opera, it's extremely difficult to get somewhere without due assistance," he added.

The San Francisco concert marks another fruit of his long-standing efforts to help young opera talents from various countries to perform on world stage, serving as a bridge for more profound understanding between U.S. and Chinese people.

[ Editor: WPY ]


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