The opera Mulan Psalm is based on the famous Chinese folk-lore about a woman hero, Hua Mulan. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]
Chinese opera Mulan Psalm, staged at Chongqing’s Shi Guangnan Grand Theater on May 10, paid homage to Shi Guangnan (1940-90), one of modern China’s most popular composers, on the 75th anniversary of his birth.
The occasion also marked the opening of the theater that’s named after Shi and is located in the municipality’s Nan’an district, where he was born.
Under the baton of Li Xincao and jointly performed by China National Symphony Orchestra and the PLA General Political Department Song and Dance Troupe, the opera featured high-profile Chinese soprano Lei Jia and tenor Zhang Yingxi.
As one of the most prolific songwriters in the country, Shi wrote a number of songs, which won the hearts of millions of Chinese. His works, including In the Field of Hope, Turpan’s Grape Was Ripe and Toasts Song, have proved popular with young and old alike, thanks to their catchy melodies and folk tunes.
Shi started composing at age 17 and made music his career.
After graduating from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Shi worked at the China National Symphony Orchestra, and his portfolio contained a full range from pop songs to operas and ballets.
“A great composer’s legacy is beyond music. Though it has been 25 years since he died, I can still feel him whenever I listen to his music,” says Hong Ruding, the late composer’s widow, who came to the show at Shi Guangnan Grand Theater.
Guan Xia, president of the orchestra and also the composer of Mulan Psalm, says: “What makes Shi’s songs so popular among different generations is his integration of folk music, such as the Tibetans and the Uygurs. He absorbed various music elements by working for years in remote villages across China and basing his composition on local folk music.”
Based on a famous Chinese folklore heroine, Hua Mulan, who disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army, Mulan Psalm has wowed audiences at prestigious venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Vienna State Opera House since its premiere in Beijing in 2004.
Guan, 58, has employed folk music in his works, especially Mulan Psalm, in which he borrowed the traditional melodies of folk songs from Central China’s Henan province. The province is where Hua Mulan is said to have hailed from.
In Mulan Psalm, Guan combined the folk tunes with a Westernized symphony orchestra.
“For a composer, the best reward is to have the person’s music enjoyed by more people and passed down through different eras. Shi made it,” says Guan, who also composed songs for popular TV series, such as I Love My Family, China’s first sitcom in 1994, besides his symphonic works.
“I hope young Chinese composers can learn from him.”