Culture\Events and Festivals

A two-way exchange of art

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-11-05 05:50
A two-way exchange of art

Contemporary dance by the Nederlands Dans Theater is one of the most highly anticipated shows in this year's CSIAF. PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Shanghai Chinese Orchestra will premiere Shanghai Odyssey - The Bund, a new musical piece by German composer Christian Jost, during this year's China Shanghai International Arts Festival (CSIAF), highlighting the event's continued commitment to fostering artistic exchange between China and the world.

The performance will be held at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on Nov 8.

In an introduction to the piece, which was commissioned by CSIAF, Jost wrote: "In the reflecting fronts of the modern prosperous Shanghai, the old is in a constant mirroring", referring to the blend of modern skyscrapers and European style buildings from the late 19th century that define the cityscape.

He added that this concept of the old reflecting the new is one of the major themes in his piece Shanghai Odyssey - The Bund.

Of his decision to pick a musical piece by a foreign composer, Shanghai Chinese Orchestra director Luo Xiaoci said: "Chinese music is open and tolerant not only to Chinese musicians, but also outstanding artists from all over the world."

Another reason, Luo said, was Jost's passion for Chinese culture and the city of Shanghai.

Jost has worked with prestigious institutions such as the Lucern Festival, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Zurich Opera throughout his illustrious career. Apart from a series of successful opera creations, such as The Arabian Nights and Hamlet, the Berlin-based composer is also the composer of Heart Sutra, an opera adapted from Chinese author Eileen Chang's short story of the same title. The play premiered at the Taiwan Festival of Arts in 2013.

The German then went on to create Red Lantern, which is based on Su Tong's novel Wives and Concubines, as well as Lover, a music-dance-theater production commissioned by Drummers of U-theatre from Taiwan.

"China's folk music is much like China's ink painting, it starts from a simple line, and develops into infinite variations," said Mao Donghua, a Shanghai-based ink artist, whose paintings depicting the architectures along the Huangpu River will be presented in digital animation during Shanghai Odyssey - The Bund.

A chance meeting

The collaboration between the two started when Jost, who was a visitor at Mao's solo exhibition at Liu Haisu Art Museum, realized that the Chinese artist's works matched the imagery of his music. He then invited Mao to one of his rehearsals.

Through the years, a number of Western composers have created music about Shanghai, but none of them featured Chinese instruments except for Jost's creation. Mao described Shanghai Odyssey - The Bund as a polyphonic piece that incorporates Chinese folk music as naturally as "steel bars in concrete".

In July, Mao began to work closely with Jost and the orchestra on the visual presentation of the performance.

"You can't simply project the paintings, like how you would show a PowerPoint document, so we worked with an animation studio, a playwright and photographer to create a dialogue between visual and audio art," she said.

"Both ink painting and Chinese folk music represent the beauty of Chinese culture, and we hope to create quality work that can evoke wide interest in China."

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