Orchestra releases season highlights

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Different from originally planned, program still offers audiences a varied range of composers.

On Sept 16, the China NCPA Orchestra announced its 2022-23 season at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. It will feature music by Anton Bruckner, Maurice Ravel and Dmitri Shostakovich, among others, as well as world premieres of works by Chinese composers.

The season kicked off with two concerts held at the NCPA on Sept 16 and 17, featuring the orchestra performing Carl Maria von Weber's The Overture to Der Freischutz (The Marksman), Rachmaninoff's Symphony No 2 and Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), Op 59, TrV 227, under the baton of conductor Li Xincao, the principal conductor and director of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

"During the past few years, we have been adjusting our schedules and making changes to the programs due to COVID-19," says Ren Xiaolong, director of the China NCPA Orchestra. "For this new season, we also had to rearrange the program within a short period of time."

The original plan for the opening concert was to feature world renowned soprano He Hui singing selections from Giacomo Puccini's classic opera Madame Butterfly. However, the soprano couldn't make it due to the pandemic.

"We decided to bring the soprano and the program back for the new season next May," Ren adds.

As this new season's Artist-in-Residence of the NCPA, He is also expected to perform a new production of Puccini's opera Tosca this November under the baton of conductor Xu Zhong. In a video, the soprano says that it will be her first time performing the opera in China.

"Tosca means a lot to me personally. Floria Tosca is one of the roles I carry in my heart, it is the role that opened the doors of the most important international opera houses to me," says He, who celebrated her 100th performance of Tosca in 2021. Since her debut at the Teatro Regio di Parma, Italy, in 2002, He has made the role one of the most significant in her repertoire and career, performing the part on some of the most important stages in the world, such as Teatro alla Scala and the Wiener Staatsoper.

"I will give my best for the audience as always," says He, who worked with the NCPA for the first time back in 2012 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball).

According to Ren, the new season will feature 149 shows all together, including 53 symphonic performances, 23 chamber music recitals, 22 choral singing concerts and 51 operas.

Fifteen conductors will work with the orchestra and over 30 soloists will feature in the program.

"We've canceled, postponed and changed the program for our last season. As the pandemic continues, we are prepared for the 'new normal'," says Ren, adding that this year, the orchestra was forced to suspend live performances for seven weeks. The orchestra's national tour, scheduled for early September, was also canceled.

"For all the musicians of the orchestra, who didn't perform together onstage for months, the new season means a new beginning," he says.

When the NCPA opened in 2007, the venue, designed by French architect Paul Andrew, attracted lots of attention. To meet the demand of its busy schedule, the venue founded its own symphony orchestra in March 2010. Conductor Lyu Jia was appointed as the artistic director for the NCPA and chief conductor of the China NCPA Orchestra that year.

During the new season, Lyu will lead the orchestra to play Bruckner's third, 7th and 8th symphonies, which is the third year of the orchestra's The Bruckner Ciphers, a program in which the orchestra aims to play all the symphonic works by the composer.

"Bruckner displayed an intense devotion to a spiritual life, which is also reflected in his music. It's a bold attempt to play all those works in one season, but it's a great way to train and help a symphony orchestra make progress," says Lyu, who was previously the musical director of the Verona Opera in Italy and also the first ever Chinese conductor to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and to record the complete orchestral works of German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

Every season, the orchestra premieres new musical works by Chinese composers. This year, the works of five Chinese composers will have their world premiere at the NCPA, including the symphonic tale The Story of Hua'er by Zhao Jiping and Concerto for Silk and Bamboo by Liang Lei.

Chamber music will be a major part of the new season with diverse arrangements and a wide repertoire. According to Tang Ning, head of artistic planning and communication of the China NCPA Orchestra, nine chamber concerts will be held at Lang Yuan Vintage, a commercial area in Beijing popular among young people. With musicians of classical music, traditional Chinese music and jazz, the chamber music recitals will be held on the weekends at the end of October, allowing more audiences to enjoy the music.

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