Arts series mixes traditional with contemporary
Updated: 2011-09-21 10:55
By Mu Qian and Tan Yingzi (China Daily)
BEIJING/WASHINGTON - From traditional folk songs to contemporary opera, from Bernstein's overture to Candide to Tan Dun's Internet symphony, China-USA: A Celebration of Music, to be held Wednesday evening at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is a feast of visions and artistry from modern and traditional China.
The concert will open with China: The Art of a Nation, a series on Chinese arts and culture presented by China's Ministry of Culture.
"This series will highlight the vision and artistry of some legendary contemporary artists from a nation whose ancient history is enriched with art and music and dance," said Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center. "With this exciting program, I believe that we celebrate a shared commitment by the peoples of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China to the arts and a friendship that we cherish very much."
Conductor Xian Zhang, music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, will lead the Washington National Opera Orchestra and an international cast of vocalists and soloists, including Huang Ying, Carl Tanner, Tian Haojiang, Maria Eugenia Antunez, Jennifer Waters and Li Chuanyun.
The selection of pieces for China: The Art of a Nation was based on the principle of "balancing the traditional and modern, indigenous and foreign, and respecting the aesthetics of the American audiences", said He Yong, director of China's Division of American and Oceanian Affairs, Bureau for External Cultural Relations, which falls under the Ministry of Culture.
Before the series begins, China's Minister of Culture Cai Wu will deliver a speech on Chinese culture and development at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He will discuss Chinese cultural influences on the nation's economy and society as well as its development.
China: The Art of a Nation was inspired by the center's Festival of China, which was held in 2005 and was a spectacle of the finest arts in China. The new series includes about 300 artists spanning all genres of the performing arts.
"We are honored to revisit the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts," said Cui Ning, vice-president of the Beijing People's Art Theater.
The theater participated in the Festival of China and performed Lao She's Teahouse. This time it will present another classic, Top Restaurant (with English subtitles), which epitomizes the Chinese culinary culture through a glimpse of the ups and downs of a Peking roast duck restaurant from the late Qing Dynasty to the period before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
"I believe that our performance will deliver something about human nature that is shared by both the Chinese and American peoples," Cui said.
The series will also include the improvisational comedy Two Dogs' Opinions on Life by the National Theater of China. The contemporary work is popular among today's urban youth.
The play describes the adventures of two brother dogs that leave their hometown and move to the city to pursue their dreams. Once there, they find that the city is not what they expected and they do a lot of absurd things to make ends meet. The two actors, Liu Xiaoye and Han Pengyi, also use standup comedy in the play and explore poverty, cyber love, weight loss, female secretaries and male bosses and food safety.
The show will be held at the Terrace Theater on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Two Dogs is a play about the life and thinking of today's young people and we are glad to be representing contemporary Chinese drama to perform in the United States," Liu said.
Other performances include The Red Detachment of Women, by the National Ballet of China; Romance of the West Chamber, by the Northern Kunqu Opera Theater; Haze, by the Beijing Dance Theater; and concerts by Inner Mongolia Chorus and the Beauty and Melody Orchestra of Sichuan.
There will also be two exhibitions, China Town: Contemporary Ceramic Painting from Jingdezhen and Landscape in Mind by Chinese artists who combine traditional and contemporary ideas on landscapes.
China: The Art of a Nation is part of an effort by both the US and China to promote more people-to-people exchanges as agreed upon during President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington in January, said Li Dongwen, minister-counselor for cultural affairs at the Chinese embassy to the US.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture is also planning a series of cultural events in New York City next year.
"The ancient Chinese scholar Zengzi once said over 2,000 years ago that 'virtuous men use culture to make friends,'" said China's Minister of Culture Cai Wu. "As the Ministry of Culture of China joins hands again with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to launch a series of cultural activities we hope that such cultural exchanges will help to step up communication between the peoples of China and the US."