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French Culture Year Opens with Musical Extravaganza

French musician Jean Michel Jarre will help to open French Culture Year in China with a concert at the front gate of the Forbidden City that can be described as no less than fabulous.

The Meridian Gate has been closed for more than 10 days to prepare for the performance, said Beijing municipal government spokesperson Wang Hui, adding that more than 15,000 people are expected to attend.

The concert will actually be presented on two separate open-air stages. One, located within the Forbidden City, will be accessible only to invited guests and VIP ticket-holders. The second stage will be located just outside the Forbidden City, at Tian'anmen Square.

The first part of the concert, scheduled to last about one and a half hours, will be held on the inner stage. Jarre will then move to the Tian'anmen Square stage for a 20-minute performance.

The Forbidden City audience will be completely surrounded by sound as well as images. Ten giant inflatable screens of different shapes, including cones and spheres, will present high-definition, moving 3D images of such famous Parisian landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

Screen walls are also being erected at Xidan, Wangfujing and Zhengyangmen, three downtown commercial or scenic areas.

For those who prefer to stay at home, live telecasts and webcasts will also be run.

The Jarre team has flown in 300 cubic meters of equipment from France for the event, including 600 projectors and a 100,000-watt Dolby Digital surround sound system. Some 20 kilometers of cable are being used to stage the extravaganza.

Jarre will be joined on stage by fellow keyboardist Francis Rimbert and by Patrick Rondat on electric guitars.

In keeping with his practice of incorporating local talent into his concerts, an 85-member Chinese symphony orchestra, a traditional music orchestra and a choir of 72 Chinese singers will accompany the innovative French artist.

Spokesperson Wang said the performance by a famous Western artist at the Meridian Gate, a quintessential piece of classical Chinese architecture, is intended to bring together the ancient culture of China and the modern culture of France.

Alain Lombard, commissioner general of the French Culture Year, said that the performance should help Chinese people better understand France and French culture.

Jarre, who is credited with almost single-handedly establishing modern French music on the international scene, last held a concert in Beijing in 1981. He was the first Western musician to play in China after the country implemented its reform and opening policy in the late 1970s.

(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2004)

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