The Opening Concert--“Belt and Road” International Music Festival Orchestra


LED by four top conductors from home and abroad, the opening concert of the 2017 Shenzhen Belt and Road International Music Season will bring audiences on a festive journey that features various styles of music sung by beautiful voices and played on distinctive instruments this Saturday night.

Hu Yongyan, Yu Feng, Spanish conductor David Gimenez and Albanian Oleg Arapi will conduct Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and an orchestra staffed by players from Belt and Road countries. Award-winning pianist Mirette Hanna from Eygpt, suona player Zhang Qianyuan and sitar player Gaurav Mazumdar from India will collaborate. The concert also features mezzo-soprano Carla Dirlikov Canales, bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, baritone Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar, soprano Katherine Whyte, and tenors Shi Yijie and Yang Yang.

Hu, artistic director of the EOS Repertoire Orchestra, will conduct the opening piece — Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture.” A concert overture written by the Czech composer, the piece, in his own words, was meant to depict “a lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching at twilight a city where a festival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of the people giving vent to their feelings in songs and dances.”

A graduate of Yale University and The Juilliard School in New York, Hu is well received for his numerous popular productions of classical music, operas, musicals and film soundtracks.

The nephew of Jose Carreras, Gimenez has conducted many of the great tenor’s concerts. Starting his musical training with piano and composition, the conductor later studied conducting at the University of Music in Vienna with Karl Osterreicher and at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Sir Colin Davis. Making his debut with the Hannover NDR Orchestra in 1994, he has appeared worldwide, conducting the most prominent orchestras and soloists. He will conduct several vocal solos on this occasion.

Yu, a familiar name to local audiences, will conduct suona concerto “A Hundred Birds Worshipping the Phoenix” and the choral finale of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.” Artistic director of the China National Opera House, Yu helped bring SSO into the first rank of Chinese orchestras during his tenure as its director between 2001 and 2007.

Canales, Schrott, Whyte and Shi will lead the chorus at the concert, accompanied by SSO and the Belt and Road orchestra.

A graduate of Moscow State Conservatory, Arapi is the resident conductor at Symphonic Orchestra of the National Albanian Radio Television. He will conduct the sitar concerto “Celebration,” a piece commissioned for the music season, and the first movement of Eygptian composer Aziz El Shawan’s “Piano Concerto in B Minor.” Hanna, winner of the Absolute First Prize at the Roma International Piano Competition, will perform the piano solo. The 23-year-old Egyptian is a student at the Geneva University of Music, Neuchatel, in the class of Austrian pianist Gottlieb Wallisch.

Mazumdar, who wrote “Celebration,” will perform the premiere of this piece. He is a master of the sitar, a traditional Indian musical instrument.

Schrott, particularly known for his interpretation of the title role in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” will sing an aria from the opera. He will also sing an aria from Verdi’s “The Sicilian Vespers.”

Ganbaatar, winner of the first prize in the male vocalist category in the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition and winner of the competition’s Grand Prix in 2015, is a Mongolian baritone. The soloist with the Buryat State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater will sing a folk song as well as “Make Way for the Factotum of the City,” an aria from Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville.”

Praised by Opera Magazine for possessing a voice that “grabs the heartstrings with its dramatic force and musicality,” Canales will sing aria “Habanera” from Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

Canadian soprano Whyte, who recently wowed local audiences at Shenzhen’s New Year Concert, will sing an excerpt from the Chinese opera “White-haired Girl” together with tenor Yang Yang.

Shi, a 35-year-old Shanghai tenor active in Europe in recent years, will perform a song by Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang, with its lyrics based on a poem by Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) poet Yang Wanli. With its title mentioning the poet seeing off a friend, the poem actually depicts the demure scenery of West Lake on a summer morning.