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US soprano Renee Fleming performs with China Philharmonic

By CHEN NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-29 08:55
Renee Fleming performs with the China Philharmonic Orchestra on Monday to close the Beijing Music Festival. [Photo by JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY]

American soprano Renee Fleming performed with the China Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Yu Long at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing on Monday, as part of the closing gala for the 22nd Beijing Music Festival, a monthlong event held every fall in the Chinese capital.

"It was my first time performing at the Beijing Music Festival and I am honored to close it by working with Yu and the China Philharmonic Orchestra again," Fleming says in Beijing.

Fleming made her Beijing debut at a concert by the conductor Yu and China Philharmonic in 2007. Then in 2013 and 2017, she held her own concerts at the National Center for the Performing Arts in the city.

The repertoires that the soprano performed at her latest concert in Beijing were described by Fleming as "challenging and rich". The first half of the concert saw the soprano perform three of Franz Schubert's art songs, An Sylvia, Nacht und Traume (Night and Dreams) and Die Forelle (The Trout).

"Schubert composed more than 600 songs during his brief lifetime of 31 years. Over 200 years later, the songs still resonate," says Fleming.

The second half the concert centered on arias from Italian operas, including Salce, Salce and Ave Maria from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Otello, and Musette Svaria Sulla Bocca Viva from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera La Boheme. In 2009, Fleming recorded the song, Musette Svaria Sulla Bocca Viva, in her own album, titled Verismo.

"Every time we have Fleming perform with us in Beijing, it goes beyond the significance of art. She not only captivates the audience with her compelling performance but also shares with us her views about art and the world," says Yu.

After her performance in Beijing, the soprano will perform with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Zhang Guoyong at the Xinghai Concert Hall in the southern Chinese city, where she will present her signature art songs and other operatic arias. She will join the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra for two concerts under the baton of Jaap van Zweden over Nov 8-9.

"When I come to China, I visit each city like a tourist. I love walking around the streets and embracing the local culture, which is very different from my culture," Fleming says.

A four-time Grammy winner, the soprano has performed across the world and has sung on special occasions such as the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and Barack Obama's inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial in 2009.

When asked about the number of performances she gives each year, Fleming says: "I don't really count them. I think it's about 65 and the opera productions really take a lot of time to prepare for."

She says she is involved in many other projects, such as working with opera houses to train young singers.

She will give a presentation at the Yale Center Beijing on Tuesday, on "music and the mind", seeking to explore the power of music as it relates to health, including childhood development, music therapy and discoveries that are changing people's understanding of how the human brain works.

"Scientists in the US have been studying music for years and I wonder why they do research into music. I am very interested in discovering how music can teach us a lot about the brain itself since we feel moved or comforted by music," she adds.

Fleming has given public talks on the subject in more than 20 cities across North America since September 2017.

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