Foreign singers on way to Beijing

BEIJING – For Juliet Petrus, a young American singer from Chicago, a first trip to China is coming with a great expectation – that she will get to perform songs from modern Chinese operatic works in the country’s National Center for the Performing Arts.

At the opening ceremony on Tuesday for a series of lectures titled “I Sing Beijing”, she told China Daily that she only knows two Chinese songs but would like to learn more and communicate with the Chinese through music.

The event is being held at the headquarters of the Confucius Institute, an organization that offers classes on Chinese language and culture throughout the world.

“It was common sense for Americans that China and the USA could not – should not – be friends 30 years ago,” she said in Beijing. “But it is different today.”

The month-long series of lectures, to be held at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, aims to teach 26 young singers hailing from eight countries, including the US, Italy and China, to perform modern operatic works that are based on old Chinese stories.

On Aug 18, they will give a performance at the National Center for the Performing Arts, near Tiananmen Square.

At the opening ceremony, Prenicia Clifton, an American singer from Kansas City, told China Daily that she is eager to learn to sing in Chinese.

She said she especially prepared a long flowing pink dress for the performance in Beijing.

Before taking the trip, she learned some Chinese from her voice tutor in the US. The most difficult thing she has encountered, she said, is singing a melody using Chinese words.

Before the lecture began on Tuesday, many of the young singers said they are looking forward to trying Chinese food.

Clifton said a waitress helped her order her first Chinese dishes – spicy and sweet beef. She said the delicious taste of the food will form a fond memory from the trip.

Tian Haojiang, artistic director of “I Sing Beijing”, said he hopes the event will build a bridge allowing Westerners to learn about Chinese music and perform on Chinese stages.

Other parts of the discussion were about the words “soft power”. A direct translation of the phrase into English can’t fully explain its meaning in Chinese, Xu Lin, the direct-general of Hanban, said at the opening ceremony.

“In some Westerner’s mind, China is known for the fast pace of its economy rather than its culture and taste in art,” she said. “We want to change that and reveal the real China to the outside world.”

By the end of 2010, about 360,000 foreign students in 96 countries had attended classes held in more than 322 Confucius Institutes and in 369 Confucius classrooms.

Source: China Daily

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