In many ways, the new opera exemplifies the rising importance of China on the Western classical-music scene. After years of completely shunning classical music during the Cultural Revolution, China has embraced it with gusto. In the last two years, countless municipalities have been hard at work building grand concert halls, and more than 10 classical-music festivals have been mounted throughout the country. At the same time, millions of Chinese children are reportedly learning to play Western musical instruments in the hopes of becoming the next Lang Lang or Yundi Li.
But Chinese influence on Western classical music goes far beyond the rise of new star soloists; it’s affecting the music itself. In recent years a flurry of Western-style operas with distinctive Chinese flavors have premiered internationally, including Bright Sheng’s Madame Mao (2003), Tan Dun’s The First Emperor (2006), and Guo Wenjing’s Poet Li Bai (2007). In October a new four-act Western opera, tentatively called Farewell My Overlord and written by Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye, will premiere at the Beijing Music Festival, where Madame White Snake, first staged in Boston earlier this year, will be reprised. Read the whole NEWSWEEK story