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The year Western opera got a local touch

By Chen Nan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-07-04 08:25

The symphony orchestra of the Central Conservatory of Music performs the Chinese adaptation of Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro in Beijing on June 17 under the baton of Wu Lingfen. CHINA DAILY

Reunion performance 41 years on by the first Central Conservatory of Music graduates demonstrates reach of Chinese-language adaptations, Chen Nan reports.

The year 1977 was key to the development of classical music in China, as it was the first time students could take part in the national college entrance exams and enroll at universities following the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

The next year, some of today's best-known composers, including Tan Dun, Chen Qigang and Guo Wenjing, became part of the first group of students to major in composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

It was also in 1977 that the prestigious institution launched a five-year program in its opera department, training the first group of opera singers after the Reform and Opening-up began.

On June 17, 41 years after graduating in 1983, the students, now at an average age of 68, returned to the conservatory for Alumni Homecoming Day, a new event. To celebrate, they reprised their graduation performance given in 1983 of a Chinese adaptation of Mozart's comic opera The Marriage of Figaro.

The original performance was conducted by Wu Lingfen and directed by Chen Dalin, who passed away shortly after at the age of 92. It was performed three times at the conservatory and 10 shows were also given to the public, to great success.

"It was the first time that The Marriage of Figaro had been performed in China. We were all very young and excited," recalls the now 80-year-old Wu, a young teacher in the department at the time.

She adds that most of the first intake of students had already been employed before they enrolled.

"They cherished the opportunity to study at the Central Conservatory of Music and worked very hard," Wu says.

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