Renowned Western opera soprano Huang Ying returns to her hometown and will present a curated selection of French and Chinese art songs
One of the most acclaimed Chinese sopranos in the global music scene, Huang Ying will perform in a concert in her hometown of Shanghai at the Oriental Art Center on May 12.
The coloratura soprano has been active in the international opera and music scenes for about 20 years, having played roles such as Princess Pamina in the Metropolitan Opera House production The Magic Flute, Chochosan in Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Madame Snake in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Madame White Snake by Zhou Long.
Since shifting her career to China in 2013 after taking on a teaching job at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Huang has judged several music competitions and performed in a series of recitals — at the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing in 2015, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center in 2016 and Shenzhen of Guangdong province in April.
She has chosen to feature art songs from France and China for the upcoming concert in Shanghai which is titled A Mirage. Huang will also be working with French pianist Michel Dalberto, who will play a few solo pieces by Claude Debussy and Gabriel Faure.
"I consider myself a cultural ambassador between Chinese and Western cultures," Huang said. "I hope to present what I have learned abroad to my audiences at home."
Huang has worked with Dalberto to design a program of French art songs with high artistic value, organizing the program based on the chronological order of when the songs were composed.
"I have made a careful selection of Chinese art songs, such as compositions by Huang Zi and Ding Shande, as well as a few folk ballads from different periods," Huang said.
"Professionally I am a singer of Western opera, but I am Chinese and I sing Chinese songs. I believe this is a good opportunity to introduce and promote Chinese art songs."
From Lovesickness by Chinese composer Huang Zi to Clair de Lune by Debussy, Huang promised to "take audiences on a journey through the Eurasia continent and dream a beautiful dream with them at the concert".
Huang kicked off her international music career in 1993 when she, who was then a fresh graduate from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, won the second prize at the 19th Concours International de Chant de Paris, making her one of the few Chinese artists to win such a prestigious international award. The next year, French director Frederic Mitterrand and conductor James Conlon invited her to play the lead role in Mitterrand's opera film Madame Butterfly.
In 2006, Huang performed for the first time with the Metropolitan Opera House, playing the role of Princess Pamina in The Magic Flute.
"Taking a bow amid the thundering applause of 4,000 people — that experience was just overwhelming," she recalled. "It was the moment of a lifetime."
The sense of accomplishment she derived from her exploits on stage can now be found in seeing her students perform and winning awards.
"I feel fulfilled to be able to do my part in cultivating a new generation of Chinese vocal artists," she said.
When asked about her advice for Chinese vocal students aspiring to forge a career on the international stage, Huang said it was grit and determination, as well as a firm grasp of different foreign languages, that has gotten her where she is today.
"Being a vocal artist is a long and difficult pilgrim's route and it takes 10 years of hard training to gain one minute in the limelight," she said.
"But I feel that the hardship has paid off. I now enjoy every minute on the stage. It is also important to learn multiple languages, as many of the pieces are in Italian and German," she added.