Artists in tune with global audiences
Updated: 2013-03-14 07:48
By Chen Jie (China Daily)
Culture's international appeal growing ever stronger, Chen Jie reports in Beijing.
A scene from Qingming Riverside, presented in the United States by China Arts and Entertainment Group. Photo provided to China Daily
The minute her plane landed in Beijing late on Sunday, cellist Zhang Yingying turned on her cell phone to call home. She knew her 8-year-old son would stay awake to welcome his mother home after her longest absence from his young life, even though it was midnight.
Zhang's employer, the China National Symphony Orchestra, had just returned from the United States, where it had undertaken its longest tour - 53 days, with 30 dates across 16 states - since it was established in 1956. It was also the longest overseas excursion by a Chinese orchestra.
"Before joining the CNSO in 2007, I spent seven years in the US, learning the cello and then performing with an orchestra, but I was excited by the tour. I have seldom seen so many standing ovations. The audiences really appreciated our perfor-mances," said the musician.
After a concert at the Strathmore Hall, Maryland, Shelly Brown, artistic director of the Strathmore Hall Foundation, told Liao Yanru, deputy director of the CNSO's programming department, that the orchestra had improved dramatically since its 2006 performance at the same venue.
The US cultural critic, Sheila Melvin, described how an elderly woman seated next to her at a concert was unfazed by the prospect of a five-hour round trip. "I'm never going to get to China," said the woman as she stood to applaud. "So if China comes to me, well, that's just great."
In June 2010, the CNSO's concert at the Festival of the World's Symphony Orchestras in Moscow impressed an agent from Columbia Artists Management, which quickly offered to present the orchestra in the US.
Columbia initially suggested a 43-city tour and had gone as far as booking most of the halls, but the orchestra's management resisted for the sake of "quality".
"We cannot let the musicians spend five hours on a bus before playing a concert and then have them sleep at motels on the side of the highway," said director Guan Xia.
The orchestra is not alone in its overseas activity. The China Arts and Entertainment Group recently took three dance productions abroad.
Qingming Riverside at the Kennedy Center, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis and the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown; The Peony Pavilion, which toured in New Zealand and in Australia; and The Silk Road, which played in New York and Massachusetts, were commercial, as opposed to State-backed, performances and won acclaim from the press.
The productions were part of the CAEG's "Image China" program, launched in 2009 to sell high-quality Chinese contemporary shows overseas.