Feature: Opera series from China airing on U.S. radio stations nationwide

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CHICAGO, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Chicago's WFMT Radio Network, as many main radio stations across the United States, started airing a series of eight operas from China's National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) on Saturday.

Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, starring Olga Peretyatko in the role of Leila and Francesco Demuro as Nadir, was the first of the NCPA series to be aired. It was conducted by Donato Renzetti and recorded from a performance at Beijing's NCPA opera house in 2019.

The NCPA opera series will be broadcast in two parts. Over the next few weeks, three more operas in Part I will be aired at noon on Saturdays, in the order of Dvorak's Rusalka with a Chinese cast that includes Zhou Xiaolin in the titular role, Lehar's The Merry Widow with Song Yuanming as Hanna Glawari, and the Chinese composer Hao Weiya's A Village Teacher.

"This opera program not only deepens the cultural collaboration between China and the United States, it also spreads the NCPA's voice and sound to the world, introducing the NCPA's high production standards and sharing them with our international audiences," said Gong Ji, vice president of NCPA.

Standing out in the series is a Chinese opera, A Village Teacher, composed by Hao Weiya. This is the opera's world broadcast premiere.

A Village Teacher tells a touching story of a teacher, Yang Caihong, performed by Zhou Xiaolin, who dedicates her life to education in a poverty-stricken mountainous region. Through the protagonist's ups and downs, the opera gives insight into people's common emotional conflicts, and wrestles between idealism and reality, love and betrayal, sacrifice and dedication.

"We could not be more thrilled to be presenting a world broadcast premiere in A Village Teacher by Hao Weiya," George Preston, president of Chicago Radio Network told Xinhua. "The composer studied in Europe and uses traditional compositional techniques, but he adapts those techniques for the Chinese language, creating a sound that is at once familiar and entirely new."

Hao Weiya hoped the Chinese characteristics in A Village Teacher could "bring a different cultural experience to American listeners, expose them to Chinese opera, and therefore enhance the cultural exchanges between China and the U.S."

"A Village Teacher is sung in Chinese and related a Chinese story, however, Hao Weiya's combination of Western musical components with Chinese elements and aesthetics has created emotional and dramatic melodies that are embedded in rich Chinese life," Wei Lanfen, deputy director of the programming department at the NCPA, further said. "I feel positive that American audiences can feel the pursuit of the beauty in humanity."

Another four operas in part two will start airing on Nov. 12, in order of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette with Melissa Petit and Francesco Demuro in the title roles; Donizetti's Don Pasquale starring Bruno Pratico as Don Pasquale, Ekaterina Bakanova as Noria and Shi Yijie as Ernesto; Verdi's Falstaff featuring Roberto de Candia in the title role, Rachele Stanisci as Alice and Filippo Polinelli as Ford. The 2022 NCPA Opera Series will conclude on Dec. 3 with Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore with Serena Gamberoni in the role of Adina, Francesco Meli as Nemorino and Liu Songhu as Belcore.

"The WFMT Radio Network is delighted to be sharing eight operas from the NCPA with stations around the country in our well-established opera series," said Preston. "The NCPA has become a significant presenter of full-scale operas in a relatively short time. In just 15 years, the NCPA has become known in the opera world for their high musical standards and production values. They have combined some of the best-known international interpreters of opera with China's most talented artists to create something truly fresh and vibrant."

Gong, the NCPA vice president, voiced the same sentiment about the delight and importance of its collaboration with WFMT Radio Network.

In addition to China's NCPA, other opera groups to be presented in this season's series include Royal Opera House/London, The Boston Early Music Festival, The Vienna State Opera, Teatro dell'Opera Di Rome, and Opera National de Paris.

"The opera performances from the NCPA are on par with those of any other major international opera company we have in our series," said Preston. "I think listeners in our Network will be impressed that the musical values of this 15 year-old enterprise rival those of companies who have been in the opera business for, in some cases, hundreds of years. We are so proud to be partnering with NCPA to share their work with a wider American audience." ■

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