Renowned conductor Zheng Xiaoying attends the rehearsal of Carmen, at the China National Opera House (CNOH) in China's capital city of Beijing on April 9, 2014. [Xinhua]
The China National Opera House (CNOH) confers upon renowned female Chinese conductor Zheng Xiaoying the tile of 'Honorary Conductor for Life.'
Zheng officially received the title at the CNOH on April 9, 2014, amid rehearsal of the opera Carmen.
Zheng, 85, is China's first female orchestra and opera conductor, and is one of only a few female conductors in the world who is still active on the stage in their 80s. She is also the first Chinese musician to make popularizing the symphony her lifelong goal.
Zheng enrolled in the Central Conservatory of Music's Composition Department in 1952. In 1955, she finally gained the opportunity to learn professional conducting, after the conservatory sent her to attend a special course taught by prestigious Soviet conductors.
"I was the only female student in the class," said Zheng in an interview in 2009, who became China's first professionally trained female music director.
Zheng worked as a teacher in China's Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in 1956, and in 1960 she studied conducting at the internationally renowned Moscow P. I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory. On October 1, 1961, Zheng conducted her first orchestral concert in Moscow, which she dedicated to the 12th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Zheng returned to China to continue her teaching career at the CCOM in 1963. Her music career was suspended during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), but after that period in history, Zheng returned to work at the CNOH.
In 1998, Zheng, then chief conductor of the CNOH and dean of the Department of Conducting at the CCOM, was invited to return to her hometown in Xiamen, a city in east China's Fujian Province, and founded the first symphony orchestra funded by local enterprises.
After more than 1,200 concerts, the Xiamen Philharmonic is now a fixture on the city's cultural landscape, and Zheng a local heroine. To bring symphonic music to the masses, Zheng is willing to veer away from performance conventions. She talks before each piece, sometimes even between movements, so as to make symphonic music more accessible to those not accustomed to it.
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