Chinese classic going strong as opera

Updated 2017-11-24 11:03:13 China Daily
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Spanish engineering company Gestamp has launched a research and development center in Shanghai to work closely with Chinese automobile manufacturers, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Spanish engineering company Gestamp has launched a research and development center in Shanghai to work closely with Chinese automobile manufacturers, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

After successful staging in China of Dream of the Red Chamber, Canadian impresario plans to take it on a major tour of Europe.

As a Canadian classical music impresario, Wray Armstrong might cut an unlikely figure in the projection of China's soft power.

The 67-year-old, however, was the man behind the recent hugely successful staging in China of Dream of the Red Chamber, based on the classic Chinese novel.

And he plans to take it on a major tour of Europe in the summer of 2019.

He believes it is the sort of project that fits into the message about the importance of promoting Chinese culture sent out by President Xi Jinping in his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October.

"President Xi has been very strong about culture and soft power, and following on from the congress we are looking at taking it to Europe," he says.

Armstrong, an imposingly tall figure, was sitting behind an enormous desk in his new office at the North Pingod Arts Community in Beijing.

The table is made out of a 100-year-old Chinese country house door, which is now encased in toughened glass.

"I had it made by a carpenter in the Gaobeidian district of Beijing where we get a lot of our props for historical dramas. They had to put it together in my office. It is a bit of an artistic statement," he laughs.

Armstrong is chairman of Armstrong Music and Arts, which he founded in the Chinese capital in 2009.

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Wray Armstrong, Canadian classical music impresario.(Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily)

Wray Armstrong, Canadian classical music impresario.(Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily)

He represents a number of the world's leading classical music artists, including the Polish composer and conductor Krzyszt Penderecki, the pianist Helene Grimaud and violinist Joshua Bell. He also represented the Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek until his death earlier this year.

Staging Dream of the Red Chamber in China though was his biggest success so far.

The production of the opera, composed by Chinese-American Bright Sheng and with a libretto by Sheng and Chinese-American scriptwriter David Henry Hwang, is not Chinese but that of the San Francisco Opera.

"It wasn't produced for the China market but by San Francisco Opera, which has a strong commissioning program and tends to commission something by a Chinese artist every five years or so.

"Its board of directors really hoped it would come to China and we were one of two or three agencies who bid on the project."

There were six performances in total, two each in Beijing, Wuhan and Changsha. The first performance at the last venue marked the opening of the Changsha Meixi Lake International Culture and Arts Center designed by the late British architect Zaha Hadid.

"In Changsha the acoustics were brilliant and the look is completely different and wonderful. The center looks like orchid blossoms when seen from above," he says.

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