In Search Of A Stage, Western Opera Singers Try China

NPR reports on Western opera singers, including American soprano Maria McDaniel, who are learning contemporary Chinese opera, both in response to the lack of jobs at home and to the Chinese government’s efforts to bolster its soft power (Listen to the report here):

For McDaniel, this workshop is the start of a linguistic journey into another culture. She’s one of 20 emerging American and European singers who have recently spent a month learning to sing in contemporary Chinese operas as part of the I Sing Beijing program. It’s a sign that the world’s cultural focus could be shifting eastward. That shift is being helped by the Chinese government, a major funder of the program.

McDaniel says she’s keen to explore China as a possible market of the future, given the dwindling opportunities for opera singers at home.

“Many prominent opera companies have closed their doors,” she says. “More have had to cut down on their seasons, the number of productions. And then the number of jobs are shrinking, so that was another reason that fueled my interest in coming over here and exploring.”

McDaniel is learning to sing a role from a modern Chinese opera called Chinese Orphan. At the end of the month, each singer will perform an aria at the most prestigious venue in China, Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts, an egg-shaped opera house that flanks Tiananmen Square.


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