Opera and Musical Productions in China during the Period of Reforms and Opening Up
Over the past 30 years since the beginning of reforms and opening up, remarkable achievements have been made in the field of opera and musical production in China. However, there do remain some issues that can only be handled by furthering reform policies.
First of all, great productions should always be targeted at the market of a country like China with its particular situation and conditions, and should be conducted very, very cautiously so as to create small- and medium-sized operas and musicals with less investment but higher artistic quality while in the meantime keeping on searching for various market-oriented producing modes.
Secondly, in the present age of multiple opera concepts and styles, the mainstream productions should be as such: the script writing with a complex and vivid plot; the music composition with focus on tonality and with cantabile melody and voice as the main means of expression which can be actively assisted by the dramatic expression of the orchestra, making the main part of the singing easily acceptable to the audience；and the majority of singers with their eyes on the market and the audience, taking the theatric nature and appeal of an opera as the major starting point from where the artists should be able to draw the audience to the theatre by creating exquisite plays that can be enjoyed by every single spectator.
Thirdly, the popularity, entertaining nature and urban culture of a musical should be studied with great attention, while investigation should also be undertaken to find out the real interest of ordinary people and the regularities of musical production and marketing. We should also learn from the mature experience of Western musical productions and make the best use of our traditional culture as well, trying our best to integrate all relevant elements such as scripts, music and other artistic means so as to create something that would ″look beautiful, sound great and be enjoyed by all″.
Fourthly, composers and playwrights should have the sense of high morality and quality and should be free from any unhealthy ways of creation such as rashness, superficiality, extravagance and exaggeration, and should fight against such mean behaviours as acting blindly or eagerly for quick success, ignoring the reality, fabricating totally groundlessly, keeping no promises or failing to perform one＇s duty.
Fifthly, more opera and musical producers, managers and business professionals should be trained, as they are the must when Chinese operas and musicals are going to be marketized or to be enjoyed by the audience. Luckily, such metropolises as Shanghai and Beijing have already seen talents of this kind who have had enough experience and lessons as well from their past careers in organising commercial performances of operas and musicals, and who will surely encourage more successors to follow suit.
I believe that both operas and musicals should have great market and great audience in China. As long as playwrights and composers observe the artistic and market rules, work hard to improve their own ability and creativity, and search for more ways of development in the face of the opportunities and challenges, it is then for sure that opera and musical production in China will definitely be anticipating a brighter future in this new century!
The Future Belongs to the Children：Written on the
Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment
of the Children and Young Women＇s Choir of China
National Symphony Orchestra
December 21st, 2008. It was the coldest day in Beijing since the winter came. However, the Forbidden City Concert Hall still saw so many people coming to the concert in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the world famous Children and Young Women＇s Choir of the China National Symphony Orchestra.
A big audience filled the concert hall. They came to share the happiness of the children and the entire concert show was so impressive that, to a spectator like me who has enjoyed their shows for several times, each image of their wonderful performance would remain in my mind, so unforgettable and so striking.
The choir was founded in 1983 by Prof. Yang Hongnian, music educator at the Central Conservatory of Music. He and his family have devoted so much to the development of the choir. The past 25 years saw its growth from the birth to today＇s fruitful achievements, with both joys and tears, but always persistent in pursuing their dream.
Shortly before the concert started, Li Lanqing, former Chinese Vice-Premier, sent his message for the choir： ″Developing the choral art to raise the general quality of the youth and enrich the cultural life of the society.″ This is not only an encouragement, but also a real portrait of the choir itself. Yang＇s wife, Prof. Tang Chongqing, the choir＇s artistic director, also a musician, unveiled some untold stories about the choir to the audience at the concert hall. Over the past 25 years, the choir has brought music and love to almost every corner of the world. As early as in 1987, the choir participated in the 3rd International Children＇s Choir Festival in Washington D.C. where they received the Diploma of Highest Appreciation with signature of the former US President Ronald Reagan. This marks the beginning of their world tours of singing as little ambassadors of peace, friendship and love. The choir has given nearly 600 shows for the past twenty years in such countries as Hungary, Austria, Japan, Singapore, Monaco, Italy, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Korea and Canada, as well as the region of Taiwan where they were praised as ″the common pride of the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait″. The choir has so far won eight prizes at international contests, including four great prizes at the 44th International Polyphonic Contest ″Guido d＇Arezzo″ in Italy in 1996, the only Special Prize at the Moscow Young Talents Music Festival in honouring the 200th Birthday of Alexander Pushkin and the First Prize ″Golden Tuning Fork″ at the First International Chorus TV Contest in Russia in 1999. Moreover, they visited Monaco and Moscow together with the Chinese delegation for bidding for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and in particular, 66 members of the choir sang the Olympic Hymn a cappella at the Opening Ceremony of the 29th Summer Olympiad in Beijing on August 8, 2008, winning great attention from all over the world.
Apart from international chorus festival and concert shows, the choir has also attended numerous charity performances for the Project Hope, the SOS Orphans＇ Village and foreign elderly houses as well as reform centres. These regularly held charity concerts fulfilled the very objective of the choir for ″love and contribution″. The young singers of the group enjoy not only the joy of the music, but also the charms of the music. One member said that ″the choir helps me feel the happiness and sentiment that can never be described in words, and makes me touched in the cleanest and also the most sensitive heart, and this state of being touched helps me understand that I can have something that I believe in, something from the bottom of my heart rather than a particular person or deity or any doctrine or argument.″ The choir is thus filled with love and care just as the teachers love the children and vice versus.
When I listened to their beautiful songs at the concert, I read the exquisite Souvenir Book in Celebration of the 25th Anniversary, which reminds me of all the footsteps that the choir has left in its history, of its glory, and the flowers and applause that it has received as well as great efforts and contributions it has made. ″The choral art is not only a criterion for measuring the music level of a nation, but also the best means to improve the music education of its citizens.″ (Wang Cizhao, ″Prelude″ to the book The Art of Chorus Training). At 25, the choir is still in its youth. Let us hope that the children grow up in the coming years with more beautiful songs!