Shanghai Sonatas - A New Musical in Concert makes world premiere in U.S. Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Shanghai Sonatas - A New Musical in Concert, based on the memoirs of Jewish refugee musicians who escaped Nazi Germany and found refuge in Shanghai, China, in the 1930s and 1940s, made its world premiere Thursday night in Los Angeles County, the United States.

The musical, conceptualized and composed by Chinese musician Sean (Xiang) Gao, is based on the first-person accounts of those Jewish refugee musicians who used their optimism, humor, and musical talents to survive, forging friendships with their Chinese neighbors who saved their lives.

During World War II, Shanghai was one of the few cities in the world to receive large numbers of Jewish refugees. According to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, some 20,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria escaped to Shanghai.

By the end of the war, the Chinese coastal city was home to approximately 24,000 Jews. After the war, some of these refugees returned to Europe, while others settled in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

The musical's world premiere is set to be held at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills through Saturday.

"I created this show with my fellow creators, book writer Alan Goodson and lyricist Joyce Hill Stoner, to share a lesser-known history with the hope to unify more peoples in the world, and to promote the awareness of the Holocaust, genocide and racial violence," Gao told Xinhua in an interview, adding that "this show also honors those who went to China throughout history and the Chinese people who studied abroad for bringing classical music to that part of the world, and now back to the world."

Gao was named as Musical America's Top 30 Professionals of the Year in 2021. He is the Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Delaware.

"It is a musical about Jewish refugee musicians teaching music to the Chinese children, so the music part of the show called me to bring many different genres of music into one production. They include but are not limited to Western classical music, jazz music heard in Shanghai, American musical theater music, timeless songs with the tonality that can be universal and attractive to young people, klezmer music of the Jewish refugees, as well as Chinese traditional music," Gao noted.

"We're hoping to bring this production to New York City, to Germany and Shanghai, where the story began, as well as many other parts of the world," the artist said.

"In this musical, there are humanity, art, friendship, tolerance, perseverance and unity. Especially in the environment of division, war, and Asian discrimination, this musical is very meaningful. Where words can not go, music can," said Maggie Wang, concerts public relations manager of the musical.

The musical is presented in partnership with China's Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and Israel's Violins of Hope.

Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum was established in 2007, with the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, one of the Jewish activity centers in Shanghai back in the early 20th century, as its core body. Violins of Hope is a project of concerts based on a private collection of violins, violas and cellos all collected since the end of WWII. Many of the instruments belonged to Jews before and during the war. Enditem

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