Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Concert: Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra

I found this picture on Twitter from the performance. I love how the women didn't have to wear black!
Last night I went to the Kennedy Center to see the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra. The concert was the culminating event for a multi-day celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Kennedy Center. I thought this was a very nice way to ring in the "Year of the Monkey," and there were even monkey emblems on one of the walls in the Hall of Nations at the Kennedy Center. Like this:
How cute! Image found here.
The concert started off with a piece called "Chinese Sights and Sounds Medley," written by Yuankai Bao. The piece uses traditional Chinese instruments and folk tunes to transport the audience to China. The orchestra only played a few parts of the full piece, and although I didn't find a video of this exact orchestra playing the exact same excerpts, here is an example of what the piece sounded like:

Next up was Dan Zhu, the violinist, performing Franz Waxman's version of "Carmen Fantasie." I've never seen the opera Carmen, but some of the music was familiar to me! The video below is not the same orchestra, but it is the same piece and Dan Zhu is the featured violinist:

The orchestra also performed the Yellow River Piano Concerto, which is supposed to evoke the movement of the river and portray the emotions of the people who live along its banks. Haochen Zhang was the pianist, and he was great! He's younger than I am, so of course all I could think of was, "What am I doing with my life?!" Below is a video of a youth orchestra performing the piece:

After the intermission, we saw a performance of "An Amazing Dream" from The Peony Pavilion, which is a famous "Kunqu opera." We only saw one scene from the entire 55-scene story, but let me tell you: this was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Below is a video of the same piece, just performed by different artists (watch the part from 6:00 to 13:00):

Yeah...That was pretty weird. I'm not sure which confused me more: how that noise could be called "singing," or why anyone would wear such long sleeves. But at least the video here is a bit more subtle when it comes to the English translation. Here is the translation from our program last night:

Ah, my beauty!
I have been looking for you everywhere,
and at last find you here.
I happened to see a beautiful willow tree in the garden.
And I broke off one branch for you.
Well known for your verse,
Will you please write a few lines in its praise?
I have never seen him before.
How can I know what he is coming for?
I'm so deep in love with you, my dear.
Don't you know floral beauty disappears
with running water and fleeting years?
I have been seeking for you from day to day.
How could I know in your bower alone you stay?
May I have a talk with you?
Where to go?
Beyond the rose grove,
Besides the lakeside rocks,
I will unfasten your buttons and belt
So that pressure and pleasure may be felt.
I will bring fresh shower for your thirsting flower.
Oh, we seem to have met somewhere we forget
But now face to face we stand,
Wordless though hand in hand.

That gets a bit vulgar at the end! I think something got lost in translation, especially when insisting on a rhyming scheme. But at least this piece made me curious to learn more about Chinese opera! Very interesting!

The last piece performed was a shortened version of Puccini's opera Turandot. Because there was no translation for the Italian singing, at first I thought the program notes didn't match the piece! But by the end it made sense. When they got to the duet "Nessun Dorma," all I could think of was that same song in the movie Witches of Eastwick:

I thought the orchestra did a great job, and I definitely felt cultured afterward! What a lovely way to spend an evening!

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