Beauty of Voice
Venue: National Centre for the Performing Arts - Concert Hall
Date: June 24, 2017
Duration: Approximate 120 mins
Conductor: ZHANG Xian
Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, effective from the 2016/17 season, ZHANG Xian is also Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following completion of her tenure as Music Director from 2009 until 2016 – highlights include their televised debut at the BBC Proms in 2013, with Joseph Calleja. From September 2016, ZHANG assumed the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, thereby becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra.
A regular conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, ZHANG Xian has made her debut with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España as well as staged performances with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the BBC Proms and Orchestre National de Belgique where she will perform again this season.
Recent operatic performances include a return to English National Opera in October 2015 conducting La bohème, and her debut with Den Norske Opera in January 2016 conducting La traviata. Following ZHANG's production of Nabucco with Welsh National Opera in June 2014, which subsequently transferred to the Savonlinna Festival, she returned to the festival in summer 2016 to conduct Otello - marking her debut with the opera company itself.
ZHANG frequently returns to China where she is a regular conductor with the China Philharmonic, Beijing Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. A champion for Chinese composers, last season she conducted CHEN Qigang’s Iris Devoilee with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and National Centre for the Performing Arts where she will return in 2017, the world premiere of CHEN Qigang’s Luan Tan with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in spring 2015 - a work commissioned by the Orchestra - as well as TAN Dun's Resurrection Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Working with young talented musicians continues to play a major part in ZHANG’s life. She has held the position of Artistic Director of the NJO, Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy since 2011, and last summer she made her debut with the European Union Youth Orchestra, conducting in Grafenegg, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rheingau and Bolzano.
Born in Dandong, China, ZHANG Xian made her professional debut conducting Le nozze di Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She was trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, and served one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. She was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.
Artist: Renée Fleming Soprano
One of the most beloved and celebrated singers of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. At a White House ceremony in 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts, America's highest honour for an individual artist. Known as “the people’s diva” and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she continues to grace the world’s greatest opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. In recent years, Renée has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series for movie theatres and television, and Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. She brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.
As a musical statesman, Renée has been sought after on numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2014, she sang in the televised concert at the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2012, in an historic first, she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II. In January 2009, Renée was featured in the televised We Are One: The Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial concert for President Obama. She has also performed for the United States Supreme Court and, in November 2009, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s “Velvet Revolution” at the invitation of Václav Havel. A ground-breaking distinction came in 2008 when Renée became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.
In the 2016-17 season, Renée brings her acclaimed portrayal of the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, in a new production by director Robert Carsen. Her 2017 recital and concert schedule spans the globe, including Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, Moscow, Brussels, Paris, London, Madrid, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Houston, Chicago, and New York.
A four-time Grammy winner, Renée won the 2013 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy Award for Poèmes (Decca, 2012), a collection of 20th Century French music, including works composed especially for her by Henri Dutilleux. Her most recent album Distant Light was recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and released in January by Decca. It features Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, The Strand Settings, composed for Renée by Anders Hillborg, as well as songs by Björk in new orchestral arrangements. In 2015, she was featured with Yo-Yo Ma on the Billy Childs album, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, their track “New York Tendaberry” winning the Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals. Her first-ever holiday album, Christmas in New York, was released in 2014, and was the inspiration for a special on PBS. In June 2010, Decca and Mercury records released the CD Dark Hope, which features Renée covering songs by indie-rock and pop artists. Her recent opera DVDs include Strauss's Arabella and Ariadne Auf Naxos, and Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. Other recent DVD releases include Handel's Rodelinda, Massenet’s Thaïs and Verdi's Otello, all three in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, and Verdi’s Traviata, filmed at London’s Royal Opera House. Ms. Fleming's 2010 DVD Renée Fleming & Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg followed Renée and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky to Russia, where they explored and performed in some of St. Petersburg's most historic locations. In recent years, this fourteen-time Grammy nominated artist has recorded everything from Strauss’s complete Daphne to the jazz album Haunted Heart to the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. She recorded Alexandre Desplat's theme song, Still Dream for the soundtrack of the Dreamworks Animation feature, Rise of the Guardians. Her recording honours range from the 2009 Echo Award for Strauss’s Four Last Songs to the Prix Maria Callas Orphée d’Or by the Académie du Disque Lyric for TDK’s DVD production of Capriccio. In February, 2012, Renée received the Victoire d’Honneur, the highest award conveyed by the French Victoires de la Musique.
In 2013, Renée joined with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to present "American Voices", a concert and 3-day festival celebrating the best American singing in all genres. The festival was the subject of a Great Performances documentary on PBS in January of 2015. In January 2017, Renée spearheaded a similar cross-genre celebration of singing and community, Chicago Voices, at Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a gala concert telecast on public television. In May 2016, she sang in the National Memorial Day Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, telecast from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on PBS.
Renée Fleming’s artistry has been an inspiration to many other prominent artists, such as Chuck Close and Robert Wilson, whose portraits of her were included in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2007 fundraising auction. Two portraits of Ms. Fleming were also created by Francesco Clemente, who revealed one in Salzburg in spring 2007, with the Metropolitan Opera displaying the other in 2008. Photographic portraits include works by Brigitte Lacombe and Irving Penn, among others. In June of this year, the Annie Leibowitz portrait of Renée was added to the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Nelson Shank's portrait of Renée in the title role of Rusalka is on display in the portrait gallery of the Metropolitan Opera.
Renée Fleming is a champion of new music and has performed works by a wide range of contemporary composers, including recent compositions by Anders Hillborg, Henri Dutilleux, Brad Mehldau, André Previn, and Wayne Shorter. Among her numerous awards are Germany's Cross of the Order of Merit (2015); the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal (2011); Sweden’s Polar Prize (2008); the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from the French government (2005); Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music (2003); and honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University (2015), Carnegie Mellon University (2012), the Eastman School of Music (2011) and The Juilliard School (2003), where she was also commencement speaker.
In addition to her work on stage and in recordings, Renée Fleming has represented Rolex timepieces in print advertising since 2001. In 2008, she launched La Voce by Renée Fleming, a fragrance designed for her, with the proceeds benefiting the Metropolitan Opera. Master Chef Daniel Boulud created the dessert “La Diva Renée” (1999) in her honour, and she inspired the “Renée Fleming Iris” (2004), which has been replicated in porcelain by Boehm. Having been added to Mr. Blackwell’s best dressed list, her concert gowns have been designed by Reem Acra, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano for Dior, Douglas Hannant, Christian Lacroix, Oscar de la Renta, Angel Sanchez and Vivienne Westwood. In June of 2014, the Smithsonian added the gown designed by Vera Wang for Renée's Super Bowl anthem performance to the permanent collection of the Museum of American History. In addition to serving as the face of opera for two public transit campaigns in New York and London, Renée has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman (famously singing the Top Ten List), The Martha Stewart Show, Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…, The View and Prairie Home Companion as “Renata Flambé,” among numerous other media outlets.
In 2016, Renée was appointed Artistic Advisor-at-Large for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the Board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of Asia Society, and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation, which works to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by creating a common ground where young people come together around classical music. She is a creative advisor to AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. In 2010, she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Board and a Vice President. At Lyric Opera of Chicago, she curated the creation of a world-premiere opera based on the best-seller Bel Canto for Lyric Opera's 2015-2016 season. A performance of the production was telecast on PBS Great Performances in January.
Presenter: China NCPA Orchestra
China NCPA Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Beijing. Established in March 2010, the Orchestra consists of highly accomplished musicians from around the world, who have performed in more than a dozen opera productions presented by its home venue each year as well as in ballets and regular orchestral concerts in its own season. With a notably busy schedule, the young ensemble has fast established itself as one of the most adventurous and dynamic orchestras in the country. LÜ Jia took up the post of Chief Conductor in February 2012, succeeding CHEN Zuohuang, the current Conductor Laureate, NCPA’s then Artistic Director of Music as well as a founder of the Orchestra. YUAN Ding was appointed Assistant Conductor in the same year. In January 2017, upon CHEN Zuohuang’s retirement, LÜ Jia started serving as NCPA’s Artistic Director of Music and the NCPA Orchestra’s Music Director.
The NCPA Orchestra demonstrates an abiding commitment to the highest level of artistic excellence and takes pride in its long-term collaborations with the finest musicians of our time. Artists associated with the Orchestra in the past few years have included Zubin Mehta, Valery Gergiev, Myung-Whun Chung, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Gunter Herbig, Leif Segerstam, Shao-Chia Lü, TANG Muhai, ZHANG Xian, Gilbert Varga, Lang Lang, Rudolf Buchbinder, Stephen Kovacevich, Yuja Wang, Khatia Buniatishvili, Kyung-Wha Chung, Vadim Repin, WANG Jian, Gautier Capucon, Han-Na Chang, Alison Balsom, Leo Nucci, Placido Domingo and HE Hui, among many others. Maestro Lorin Maazel worked closely with the Orchestra before his passing and praised the musicians for their “amazing professionalism and great passion in music”. After working with the Orchestra in a series of concerts and the NCPA’s new production of La Traviata in June 2010, maestro Christoph Eschenbach also declared it “one of the finest orchestras in Asia”.
In the first few years since its establishment, China NCPA Orchestra has become one of the leading ensembles in the country both on stage and in the pit, gaining critical acclaim for its performances in NCPA’s many opera productions. To date they have played for over 30 new productions, including not only classical repertoire works such as Tosca, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Die Fledermaus, Lohengrin, Aida, Otello, and Nabucco, but also newly commissioned works The Chinese Orphan, Rickshaw Boy and Visitors on the Snow Mountain. In its own orchestral concert season, the Orchestra has consistently presented creative and diverse programmes, including a remarkable Beethoven Project in 2013 under the baton of LÜ Jia. Their performance of the mammoth Ring without Words with its conductor, Lorin Maazel, was released on SONY Classics worldwide, the only recording the great maestro ever made with a Chinese orchestra.
Another important field of work that the Orchestra has explored extensively in the short period of time since its establishment is the creation and promotion of contemporary music. Having presented the Chinese premieres of major works by John Admas, Toru Takemitsu and Giya Kancheli, it has given the world premieres of more than ten substantial new orchestral works commissioned by the NCPA, written by composers from across the globe, including Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Kalevi Aho, Joby Talbot and ZHAO Jiping. It has also played a major role in the NCPA’s annual Young Composers Programme, providing a unique platform nurturing future Chinese composers.
The NCPA Orchestra has flexed its wings on the international stage with high-profile touring work, receiving widespread international praise for its performances. From 2012 to 2015, the Orchestra was invited by Kissingen Summer Music Festival and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, and continued its German tour with concerts in Nürnberg, Hamburg and Berlin. It also gave performances in Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Daegu, Taipei and Macao. During the 2014/15 season, the Orchestra undertook its first North American tour, where it performed in seven major cities in the US and Canada, under the baton of LÜ Jia. This was not only a milestone for this young ensemble, but also a breakthrough for any Chinese orchestra performing abroad. Musical America praised its “joyful confidence and youthful strength”. Concerto Net described it “a polished, first rate ensemble”.
With its commitment to education and outreach activities, the Orchestra has presented a series of Weekend Concerts at its home venue since its establishment. With selected programmes and accessible ticket prices, these concerts have become extremely popular with audiences new to classical music. Current plans in the repertoire include a new series highlighting the Beethoven Symphony, led by Chief Conductor, LÜ Jia. In addition, the Orchestra frequently initiates wide-reaching educational projects in association with educational institutions across the city.
The forthcoming 17/18 season will have “Ode to Friends” as its central theme, featuring concerts conducted by LÜ Jia, ZHANG Xian, ZHENG Xiaoying, Fabio Luisi, Christopher Eschenbach, Zubin Mehta, Alexandre Bloch, ZHANG Guoyong, Rainer Honeck, YUAN Ding, with soloists Rene Fleming, Maureen McKay, Kristin Lewis, LI Liang, Alexei Volodin, ZHANG Haochen, Behzod Abduraimov, SUN Yingdi, LÜ Siqing, ZHU Dan, Clara Jumi Kang, Hsin-Yun Huang, Gabriel Schwabe, WANG Liang, LI Biao, and many others. Renowned composer CHEN Qigang and pianist Lang Lang, both as this season’s Artist-in-Residence, will lead a number of concerts as well as educational projects. The Orchestra will also perform in fifteen NCPA opera productions including, Tristan und Isolde and Falstaff. In this season, the Orchestra will initiate its very second tour to the US under the baton of LÜ Jia, and will give performances in Carnergie Hall, Chicago Symphony Centre, Kimmel Centre, Davies Symphony Hall and other two prestigious venues, in collaboration with Lang Lang, Gautier Capucon, WU Man and NING Feng.