Homecoming Queen

December 30, 2019
Editor: Sun Muyao

He dresses up to perform the title role in Turandot at the Shanghai Grand Theater on December 13, the first time she played the princess in front of the Chinese audience. [China Daily]

 

Soprano He Hui is returning to China to give a solo recital of opera arias at the Forbidden City Concert Hall, Chen Nan and Zhang Kun report.

Soprano He Hui had a hectic schedule in 2019. She traveled around the world to perform several challenging roles, including the Cio-Cio-San in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, the title role of Francesco Cilea's opera, Adriana Lecouvreur, at the Salzburg Festival and making her debut as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme at the Puccini Opera Festival in Italy.

On Saturday, the soprano will return to her home country to give a solo recital Night of Opera Arias at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing accompanied by pianist Roberto Corliano. She will perform many classic arias, including Liebestod (Love Death) from opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner and Tacea La Notte Placida (The Night Was Still and Quiet) from Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore.

"All the arias I've chosen are personal favorites that I've performed over the past two Decemberades," says He in a phone interview with China Daily. "It's like a review of my career in 2019, which has been a year full of memories."

Ever since she won second place at Placido Domingo's Operalia, a world opera competition launched by the legendary singer in 2000, and first prize at the Concorso Internazionale Voci Verdiane in Verdi's hometown of Busseto in 2001, the soprano has performed in every leading theater in the world, including the Vienna Staatsoper and the Opera Bastille in Paris. She is best known for her roles as Aida or Madama Butterfly, both of which she has performed on more than 150 occasions.

Since 2005, she has been singing at the ancient Roman amphitheater, Arena di Verona, which enabled her to become the first female singer in history to have sung on that stage for 15 years nonstop.

"The only method of transcending cultural differences and convincing Western audiences is through my voice and my acting," He says.

During her upcoming recital in Beijing, the soprano will also perform two arias from Puccini's opera Turandot: Tu che di gel sei cinta (You Who Are Girdled With Ice) and In questa reggia (In This Palace).

Soprano He Hui has chosen personal favorites to perform at the recital in Beijing on Saturday.[China Daily]

 

On December 13, she sang the title role in Turandot at the Shanghai Grand Theater, which was the first time that the 47-year-old soprano had performed the role in front of a Chinese audience, after her successful debut in the role earlier this year at the Dubai Opera House.

She has received several invitations to play the title character of the Chinese princess. However, she says she was initially cautious about it and didn't take up the offer until recently, now that both her voice and technique have reached their finest condition.

"I think deep inside she is a little girl hungry for love, but is scared of it at the same time," she tells the media before the premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theater. "Eventually love melts the cold ice, and the yearning for love is awakened by Prince Calaf, and Liu, who eventually sacrifices her own life for love.

"I try to present a Turandot with tenderness in the heart, based on my understanding of Chinese culture," she says. "After all, the Chinese princess is a multifaceted character."

The soprano adds that many of the roles she performed are female, who are loyal and hungry for love. She fell in love with these roles because she is "also very romantic and full of love in her heart".

Born in Ankang, Shaanxi Province, He heard a CD of La Boheme for the first time at the age of 18, which prompted her to become a singer, even though she couldn't understand Italian. She graduated from the Xi'an Conservatory of Music and made her debut as Aida in a 1998 production marking the opening of the Shanghai Grand Theater.

For He, being a soprano offers her the chance to use both her vocal and acting abilities.

"Every note expresses the character's mood, personality and attitude. I try to understand the background of each of the character I play and portray them using my imagination," she says.

Now living in Verona, Italy, and touring worldwide, He returns to China every year to hold recitals and master classes, hoping to introduce the Western art form to a wider Chinese audience and cultivate the next generation of Chinese singers.

Last year, she toured six Chinese cities with a solo recital to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her music career.

She says there are many talented young Chinese singers out there, but suggests that some need to improve the versatility in their portrayal of the characters through the use of their voices. She says aspiring young musicians should "love the art instead of the honors, flowers and the applause that comes with it".

As a Chinese musician performing opera, a Western art form, she says she has to overcome all kinds of obstacles in language and culture.

"A beautiful voice alone is not enough," she adds.

 

(Source: China Daily)

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