China's Three Tenors performed with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Friday, 3 August 2012. Many SCA members and friends were able to attend this event. The following review has kindly been written by our Vice President Eddie McGuire.
China’s Three Tenors in fine voice with RSNO - sparking the Festival fire in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s festival season was launched in splendid style by China’s Three Tenors with a “Beijing Night” at the Usher Hall. Adding to the grandeur of the occasion was the full strength of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Martin Yates. World favourite arias from the great operas were matched by colourfully orchestrated songs from China’s folk and national traditions, as well as by arias by Chinese composers. And, in a tribute to Scotland, the tenors came on resplendent in their kilts for final encores !
The auspicious date was the sixth in an ambitious world tour that has already won accolades in Beijing, New York, Macau, Hong Kong and London.
Our home orchestra was not simply accompanying. The evening opened with a spirited rendition of Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’ overture. Other highlights for me included the solo moments closely accompanying the voice - from leader Maya Iwabuchi (in Puccini’s ‘Recondita armonia’) ; clarinettist John Cushing (in the folk song ‘The never Setting Sun’) ; oboist Katy Mackintosh (in the folk song ‘In that Distant Place’) and violas and cellos over hushed trombones with Dai Yuqiang in his Massenet aria.
Most memorable was the bravura opera style of the three tenors themselves, sustaining their power of delivery throughout the whole evening, even over full-blooded brass. The first half cleverly built gradually, with a series of solos from each singer. ‘Pourquoi me reveiller’ from Massenet’s opera ‘Werther’ was passionately sung by Dai Yuqiang, followed by Hong Kong born Warren Mok who gave a powerful performance of the tragic love song ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jet’ from Bizet’s opera ‘Carmen. Finally, Wei Song's first solo was a soaring ‘Vesti La Giubba’ from Leoncavallo’s ‘I Pagliacci’. Wei has become known as “China’s Pavarotti” and has performed on opera and concert stages worldwide.
Their solos in the second half of the concert were in the same order - powerful performances of arias by Puccini, Lehar and Verdi, the last of which presented Wei Song’s mastery of the Othello role.
Songs and arias - very well known in China - by six Chinese composers (Ao Chang Qun, Gu Jianfen, Qing Zhu, Chen Qigang, Tian Guang and Fu Jing) were given exemplary performances. However, the most exciting moments came in the trio ensembles for which the tenors are famous, in classics of Italian opera and songs by the Chinese composers. The evening was brought to a rousing conclusion by six of China’s most popular folk songs, including 'The Small Stream Flows' (Xiao He Tang Shui) - remarkable for the effect of its echoing voices.
Dipping its toes into Chinese traditional and classical orchestrations, the RSNO is setting the scene - and getting into the mood - for its epic journey to the East : its first ever tour of China starts in late December with concerts in Shenzhen, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Macau.
Thanks to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development and related bodies for organising this Edinburgh concert and to all those locally who hosted it.
Background to the Three Tenors
Formed in 2011, ten years on from the original Three Tenors concert in Beijing, the trio comprises China's most celebrated tenors - Dai Yuqiang, Wei Song and Warren Wah-lun Mok. Their world tour began in October, with the premier concert in Beijing, followed by Hong Kong, Macau and New York. After Edinburgh they are performing in Freiburg and Cologne.
Dai Yuqiang was Luciano Pavarotti's first and only Chinese student, while Wei Song is known in the People's Republic as "China's Pavarotti" and is Vice-President of the Shanghai Opera House. Warren Wah-lun Mok, from Hong Kong, has a distinguished career as one of China's top opera singers as well as being Artistic Director of the Macau International Music Festival and Founder of Opera Hong Kong. This concert marks 25 years since his European debut.
The concert, A Beijing Night with China's Three Tenors, was sponsored by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, for which the trio are ambassadors.
The repertoire for the concert, conducted by Martin Yates, included pieces from classic European operas such as Tosca, Carmen and Rigoletto, the works of contemporary composers from China, and a selection of traditional Chinese folk songs.
Background to the production
The Edinburgh concert, "Beijing Night", was organized by the Beijing Municipal Tourism Commission and produced by Beijing Mountain and Water International Media Planning Ltd. The company is one of China's modern cultural enterprises, with a wide international perspective and diverse multicultural values, and is committed to the appreciation of Chinese culture in Europe.
Mountain and Water brought China's original musical “Qingcheng” to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time in 2011, successfully hosting five performances and caused a sensation. Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, attended the premiere and described the show as "the classic representative of the oriental art and culture".
The artistic director and producer, Mr Xinli Lu, is a very experienced producer and a senior lecturer in the Central Academy of Drama. He was also responsible for the huge success of “Qingcheng” in Edinburgh last year.
Miss Jiajia Li, the company's overseas liaison officer, worked with the International Office of the City of Edinburgh Council and the Consulate General of China to deliver the event, and she praised “the very full support we have received from our friends and partners in Edinburgh”. She added, “in the past two years, Mountain and Water has endeavoured to bring the most representative performances to Edinburgh so the Scottish audience can appreciate Chinese music and culture, and we are planning to bring more of the Chinese works to the city in the future”.