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Overseas singers return for vocal competition

Updated: 2023-04-26 08:22 ( China Daily Global )
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Yu Feng (middle), president of the Central Conservatory of Music, along with other organizers, attends the media conference of the Ningbo International Vocal Competition, held in Beijing on April 18.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The Central Conservatory of Music has announced the date for the 2023 Ningbo International Vocal Competition, which will be held from Dec 2 to 11 in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang province.

Co-organized by the Ningbo municipal government, the event will select four winners from the male and female categories. Singers of all nations, aged from 18 to 36, are eligible to apply.

"With the country optimizing its COVID-19 control measures, we will have international competitors return this year," says Yu Feng, the president of the Central Conservatory of Music. "The event has a long tradition of offering young talented singers a platform to showcase themselves and to be seen by a bigger audience. More importantly, they learn and communicate with one another, which makes it a great cultural exchange program."

One of China's major international music competitions, the Ningbo International Vocal Competition is held every three years. Formerly named the China International Vocal Competition, the event was held in Beijing in its first year in 2000, and later moved to Guangzhou in 2002. Since 2005, the competition has been held in Ningbo and has attracted over 1,600 competitors from over 40 countries. Since 2018, the event has been jointly held by the Central Conservatory of Music and the Ningbo municipal government.

Yu notes that the competition has propelled many singers to stardom, and that they are actively performing worldwide, including Chinese soprano Wu Bixia, tenor Sun Li, who is now the president of Fujian Song and Dance Theatre, and tenor Xie Tian, who is the head of the vocal performance department at the Central Conservatory of Music.

According to Chen Bing, a renowned conductor and the Party secretary of the voice and opera department at the Central Conservatory of Music, piano teachers from the school will provide accompaniment for the competition and the judging panel will feature top international musicians.

Chen also says that, in addition to opera arias, participants have to sing one Chinese art song from a selected repertoire of 10 compositions, and there will be prizes for best performances. Among the repertoire are songs such as My Sentiment to the Yangtze River, which was composed by Chinese musician Qing Zhu (1893-1959) and has lyrics by Chinese poet Li Zhiyi from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and Wishes of the Rose, written in 1932 by composer Huang Zi (1904-1938).

Having competitors perform Chinese art songs alongside Western songs has been a tradition at the competition since the 2000 event.

"Despite the language barrier, international singers have performed the Chinese art songs very well, with accurate pronunciation and expressive singing," says Yu, commenting on the performances of international competitors from past events. "To learn the Chinese art songs, they also learn the stories behind each one, which is an opportunity for them to get to know Chinese culture through the songs."

"We have seen a growing number of foreign singers apply to take part in the competition, and we have also invited influential judges from around the world," says Chen Dingxiang, deputy director of the Ningbo municipal bureau of culture, radio, television and tourism, adding that, since the news of the competition was released online in February, the competition committee has received inquiry emails and phone calls from over 500 people from more than 30 countries.

Master classes and workshops will be open to the general public during the competition as part of a bid to popularize classical music. The Ningbo Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 2015, will provide the musical accompaniment in the final round of competition.

Yu adds that the school has a long history of vocal training. In 2018, the competition's judging panel was headed by renowned Chinese soprano and music educator, Guo Shuzhen.

He also notes that the school is keen to promote Chinese music worldwide. For example, it has collaborated with the Bard College Conservatory of Music in the launching of the US-China Music Institute in 2017, which supports musical exchanges between the two countries. The Central Conservatory of Music and Bard College Conservatory of Music have embarked on the Chinese Music Development Initiative, creating several groundbreaking projects, including the first degree program in Chinese instrument performance at a US conservatory, the annual China Now Music Festival, an annual conference, and youth programs in Chinese music.

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