Bard Conservatory’s US–China Music Institute Presents Fifth Annual China Now Music Festival, October 7–22
This Year’s Theme, East of West, Focuses on Breaking Boundaries Through MusicANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—The US–China Music Institute of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, in collaboration with China’s Central Conservatory of Music, announces the fifth season of the China Now Music Festival, from October 7 to 22. The festival’s concerts will take place at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, Hudson Hall at the Historic Hudson Opera House, and Lincoln Center in New York City.
The China Now Music Festival is dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of music from contemporary China through an annual series of concerts and academic activities. This year’s festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary with an unprecedented program featuring three uniquely curated concerts that will trace how generations of artists from China and the West have influenced and inspired each other through musical expression.
“Our theme, ‘East of West,’ seeks to reveal differences in culture and tradition that have historically divided East from West—only to break them down and, through our artistic experience, create something new that belongs to both East and West,” says China Now Music Festival Artistic Director Jindong Cai.
Cai will lead The Orchestra Now, the Orchestra of New Asia CMS, the Bard Chinese Ensemble, and guest performers in three programs over three weekends. The festival’s repertoire will include the US premieres of selections from Guo Wenjing’s critically acclaimed opera Rickshaw Boy, Hao Weiya’s chamber opera Painted Skin, Ye Xiaogang’s second symphony The Great Wall, and symphonic works by Jiang Wen-ye and Huang Anlun. Also featured are compositions by Aaron Avshalomov and Alexander Tcherepnin, two Western composers who lived in China in the early 20th century. Featured artists include world-renowned Kunqu opera singer Qian Yi, award-winning vocalists tenor Li Yi; sopranos Deng Manli and Lucy Fitz Gibbon; coloratura soprano Holly Flack; mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein; pianists Ju Xiaofu and Xu Fangfang; and opera director Michael Hofmann.
The first concert program, “Tales from Beijing,” will be performed October 7 at Bard’s Fisher Center and October 9 at the Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center. The concert will open with Hutongs of Peking by Aaron Avshalomov, a Russian-born Jewish-American composer who lived in China for 30 years beginning in 1918, and became a leading figure in pioneering modern Chinese music. Written in 1931 and premiered in 1933, Hutongs of Peking is a symphonic poem of old Beijing that lovingly depicts the sounds of Beijing’s ancient alleyways—morning temple bells, the calls of street vendors, the lyrical strains of Peking Opera, the mournful cacophony of funeral drums—before finally transporting us back to the tranquility of the ancient city. This will be followed by four selections from the opera Rickshaw Boy, specifically chosen and adapted by the composer Guo Wenjing for this concert performance to showcase the grand symphonic, dramatic and lyrical nature of the opera and the tragic romance of the rickshaw puller Xiangzi, sung by Yi Li, and Huniu, sung by Manli Deng. In the concert’s second half, we will hear composer Ye Xiaogang’s Symphony No. 2, The Great Wall. This large-scale work for piano, voice, Chinese instruments, and symphony orchestra is inspired by the idea of the Great Wall as a magnificent physical and spiritual symbol of the Chinese nation. The symphony is divided into nine movements, drawing on folk music of the many ethnic groups who live along the Great Wall from the foothills of Beijing to the Western region of China. The symphony is intended to create a deep and broad soundscape that spans time and space and will feature a young pianist from Juilliard, Xiaofu Ju, with renowned New York–based soloists on erhu,pipa, dizi and morin khuur (horse-head fiddle).
The second concert program, “Painted Skin,” will take place on October 13 at Hudson Hall, the historical opera house in Hudson, New York, and October 15 at Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center. It features the US premiere of Painted Skin, a chamber opera based on a ghost story by the early 18th century Qing Dynasty author Pu Songling, which was originally published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Pu’s story is about a demon who presents herself as a beautiful woman; if she can capture the heart of a young (and happily married) scholar, she will be able to permanently assume human form. In this performance of Hao’s opera, co-produced by the US–China Music Institute and the Central Conservatory of Music and conceived by Michael Hofmann, the story is transported to a contemporary American college setting. All three roles—the demon, the professor, and his wife— are performed by women. Mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein, who plays the professor, and coloratura soprano Holly Flack, who plays the professor’s wife, will both sing entirely in Chinese. The Kunqu opera singer Qian Yi—who first came to the attention of American audiences with her star performance in Lincoln Center’s 1999 staging of the 19-hour opera Kunqu opera Peony Pavilion—plays the demon.
The third concert program, “Journey to the East,” will take place on October 22 in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. The first half of the concert will include the concert version of a rarely performed work, The Nymph and the Farmer, a 35-minute, one-act chamber opera on Chinese themes by composer Alexander Tcherepnin. The opera, based on an old Chinese folk tale, is sung in French with English and Chinese subtitles and features American soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon as the nymph and Chinese tenor Yi Li as the farmer. Tcherepnin taught at the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1930s and nurtured the early generation of Chinese composers, including Jiang Wenye, the composer whose works are featured in the second half of this concert, beginning with Taiwan Dance, which is perhaps the most representative of Jiang’s works. The next work is the third movement of a piano concerto composed by Jiang in 1964 which had been lost during the cultural revolution and was only recently discovered. The movement is called Rooster Crowing in the Rain—Recalling Past Valor (Xu Beihong’s Color-and-Ink Paintings). The concerto is dedicated to Fangfang Xu—who will perform it for us with The Orchestra of New Asia CMS—and was inspired by the art of her father Xu Beihong, the renowned Chinese painter. Images of Xu’s paintings will accompany his daughter’s performance. The program will conclude with the world premiere of Capriccio Xu Beihong which was commissioned by the festival and written by Chinese-Canadian composer Huang Anlun. This closing concert is dedicated to Alexander Tcherepnin and Xu Beihong, who sought throughout their lives to connect East and West through their art and simultaneously nurtured generations of artists who did the same.
For more information about the China Now Music Festival and for full programming details, visit barduschinamusic.org/east-of-west.
October 7 at 8 pm ‘Tales from Beijing’ at the Fisher Center at Bard College:
Tickets start at $20 ($5 tickets for Bard students are made possible by the Passloff Pass)
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October 9 at 3 pm ‘Tales from Beijing’ and October 15 at 7:30 pm ‘Painted Skin’ at Jazz at Lincoln Center:
Tickets: $25, $50, $75, $100
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October 13 at 7 pm ‘Painted Skin’ at Hudson Hall, Hudson, NY:
Tickets: $25/$45 ($10 student price with ID)
Box Office: 327 Warren St, Hudson, NY 12534
By phone: (518) 822-1438
October 22 at 7:30 pm ‘Journey to the East’ at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center:
Tickets: $25, $50, $75
ALICE TULLY HALL BOX OFFICE (BROADWAY AND 66TH STREET)
Monday–Saturday 10 am–6 pm; Sunday 12 pm–6 pm
By Phone: CenterCharge 212 721 6500
Jindong Cai, artistic director, China Now Music Festival
Conductor Jindong Cai is the director of the US-China Music Institute, professor of music and arts at Bard College, and associate conductor of Bard’s The Orchestra Now. Before coming to Bard, Cai was a professor of performance at Stanford University. Over the 30 years of his career in the United States, Cai has established himself as an active and dynamic conductor, scholar of Western classical music in China, and leading advocate of music from across Asia. At Bard, Cai founded the annual China Now Music Festival. In its first three seasons, China Now presented new works by some of the most important Chinese composers of our time, with major concerts performed by The Orchestra Now at Bard’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and Stanford University. In 2019, the festival premiered a major new work by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Zhou Long, Men of Iron and the Golden Spike—a symphonic oratorio, in commemoration of the Chinese railroad workers of North America on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Anshuman Bhatia, lighting designer, Painted Skin
Anshu’s designs for Opera, Theater, and Dance have been seen at Santa Fe Opera, Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts, Dublin’s Civic Theater, Soho Rep, The Public, The Atlantic, Arena Stage in Washington D.C., The Park Avenue Armory, Bard Music Festival, WP Theater, The Juilliard School, Madison Opera, Classic Stage Company, HERE Arts Center, LoftOpera, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Keen Company, Pacific Symphony, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Virginia Arts Festival, Rattlestick Theater, The Sheen Center, Troy’s EMPAC. M.F.A. NYU.
Manli Deng, soprano, Tales from Beijing
Manli Deng was born in Chongqing, China. As a young artist she was selected to perform in the Maryland Lyric Opera Institute. Deng received her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Recently, she completed her Master of Music in Voice Performance at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, and she will be pursuing the Artist Diploma at the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts in the Fall of 2022. Recent opera engagements include Helene in Hin unt Zurück, Fiordiligi in Così Fan Tutte, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas，Mimi in La Bohème, and Yuqing Hou in Enming Deng. Future credits include returning to the Maryland Lyric Opera in September 2022 for her role debut as Dama di Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and as Gran Sacerdotessa in Aida in May 2023. Deng recently won third place in the Sylvia Green Vocal Competition; she was also the finalist in the Upper Midwest Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions; and a finalist in the Atlantic Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. This is her first time performing in the China Now Music Festival.
Lucy Fitz Gibbon, soprano, A Journey to the East
Noted for her “dazzling, virtuoso singing” (Boston Globe), Lucy Fitz Gibbon is a dynamic musician whose repertoire spans the Renaissance to the present. She believes that creating new works and recreating those lost in centuries past makes room for the multiplicity and diversity of voices integral to classical music’s future. As such, Ms. Fitz Gibbon has given U.S. premieres of rediscovered works by Baroque composers Francesco Sacrati, Barbara Strozzi, and Agostino Agazzari, as well by 20th century composers including Tadeusz Kassern, Roman Palester, and Jean Barraqué. She has also worked closely with numerous others, workshopping and premiering works by a wide range of composers including John Harbison, Kate Soper, Sheila Silver, David Hertzberg, Reena Esmail, Roberto Sierra, Anna Lindemann, and Pauline Oliveros. In helping to realize the complexities of music beyond written notes, the experience of working with these composers translates to all music: the commitment to faithfully communicate not only the score, but also the underlying intentions of its creator.
A graduate of Yale University, Ms. Fitz Gibbon is the recipient of numerous awards for her musical and academic achievements. She holds an artist diploma from The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory and a master’s degree from Bard College-Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program; her principal teachers include Monica Whicher, Edith Bers, and Dawn Upshaw. She has spent summers at the Tanglewood Music Center (2014-2015), Yellow Barn (2020), and Marlboro Music Festival (2016-2019, 2021). She is currently Interim Director of Vocal Programs at Cornell University and on the faculty of Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program, and serves as voice faculty for Kneisel Hall’s 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Holly Flack, soprano, Painted Skin
Holly Flack is a coloratura soprano with a unique range that extends beyond an octave above high C. Praised as an “explosive talent” with her warm, flowing middle voice, rippling coloratura and effortless trills, she “wields an impressive range, effortlessly reaching higher than high notes” with her stratospheric vocal extension.
She has traveled multiple times to China with the iSing! International Young Artists Festival for concerts in different cities around the country, and has performed on CCTV, Dragon TV, and Jiangsu Weishi TV for China’s National Day Celebration and the Chinese New Year. In 2022, she singularly represented the USA singing in a promotional video for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from St. Olaf College, and a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Kentucky, where she studied with renowned soprano Cynthia Lawrence.
Holly plays the role of the scholar’s wife in the China Now Music Festival production of Hao Weiya’s ghost story chamber opera, Painted Skin.
Kristin Gornstein, mezzo-soprano, Painted Skin
Praised as “a fine actress with a deep, spacious sound” [Parterre], American mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein brings her “rich-voiced mezzo-soprano” and “lines of an uncannily silky legato” [New York Times] to her work, ranging from the traditional to the edgy and imaginative.
A frequent performer on the New York opera scene, Ms. Gornstein has appeared as Lucretia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with Loft Opera, as Mrs. Slender in Salieri’s Falstaff with Dell’Arte Opera, as Dulcinée in Massenet’s Don Quichotte with Utopia Opera, and as Romeo in I Capuleti e I Montecchiwith Opera Modo. Never straying too far from the edgy and imaginative, she is an Associate Artist with Heartbeat Opera; appearing as Xantippe in Daphnis and Chloé, as featured soloist in Queens of the Night: Mozart in Space at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust and as part of the first fully staged opera pastiche ever performed on Manhattan’s High Line.
She performed in the ensemble of Michael Gordon and Deborah Artman’s groundbreaking opera Acquanetta, both in the 2018 world premiere at the Prototype Festival, and in its reprisal at the Bard Summerscape Festival in 2019.
Ms. Gornstein plays the role of the scholar in the China Now Music Festival’s production of Hao Weiya’s ghost story chamber opera, Painted Skin.
Michael Hofmann, director, Painted Skin
Michael Hofmann is an opera stage director, administrator, performer, and artist based in Hudson, New York. His frequent experience with premiere works and devised performances has positioned him as a specialist in contemporary opera direction dedicated to genuine, engaging, and accessible storytelling. His directorial debut, a semi-staged performance of Bernstein’s Candide with The Orchestra Now in February 2017, was noted as “stunning in its brilliance, humor, and overall gestalt… an astonishing accomplishment” (Millbrook Independent). Hofmann has since directed or stage-managed performances with the Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School, University of Connecticut, Fresh Squeezed Opera, the Bard Music Festival, and the Bard College Music Program. Most recently, he directed Jillian Flexner’s world premiere chamber opera Self-Defined Circuits at HERE Theater in May 2022, a production praised for being “riveting… so artfully done, so sensitive and authentic” (Observer) and “particularly inventive in its use of technologies” (BroadwayWorld).
Yi Li, tenor, Tales from Beijing and A Journey to the East
Proving himself a formidable talent and a rising star to watch in the opera world, tenor Yi Li is quickly gaining attention across the globe. Most recently, Li debuted the role of Cheng Quing in Meredith Monk’s ATLAS with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and moved into bigger repertoire – debuting the role of Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West in Maryland Lyric Opera’s inaugural season. Mr. Li subsequently returned there as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Turridu/Luigi in Il Tabarro/Cavalleria Rusticana, as well as The Metropolitan Opera as the Young Lover in Il Tabarro.
Engagements last season included a return to Maryland Lyric Opera for Turandot – singing Pang and covering Calaf, Danny in An American Soldier at the China Now Music Festival, his debut at Opera Tampa as Turridu in Cavalleria Rusticana, the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Jackson Symphony, Angel Island Oratorio at the Sante Fe Opera, and a gala concert for the 10th Anniversary of Finger Lakes Opera. Upcoming, Yi Li can be seen performing with the Irish National Opera. This season, Li will take on the role of Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth, and rejoin the China Now Music Festival.
Xu Fangfang, piano, A Journey to the East
Born in Beijing, Xu Fangfang began her piano studies at age five. At nine, she entered the Preparatory Music Elementary School Affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music. In 1968, with a diploma from the Preparatory Music High School Affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music, she was assigned to work as a piano accompanist for the China National Peking Opera Company, helping to make The Red Lantern into one of Jiang Qing (Madame Mao)'s model operas. In 1972, she was assigned to the Central Philharmonic Orchestra's music research group where she participated in preparing the descriptions of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s repertoire for top leaders' review. In 1973, under the direction of maestro Eugene Ormandy, it became the first American orchestra to travel to the People’s Republic of China.
In 1981, she enrolled at UC Berkeley to complete her BA in history. She also earned an M.B.A. from Stanford University. In the 1990s, she was the piano accompanist for Union Avenue Opera Theatre's Opera Gala Concert in St. Louis and also played solo from Chinese repertoire at the St. Louis Art Museum. In 2000, she became the founding director of the music department at Renmin University of China. Details of her life and education can be found in Xu Fangfang's memoir Galloping Horses: Artist Xu Beihong and His Family in Mao’s China. beihongchinaarts.com
For the 2022 China Now Music Festival, Ms. Xu returns to the stage to perform the once-lost third movement of Jiang Wenye's piano concerto, Xu Beihong's Color-and-Ink-Paintings, which Jiang composed especially for her in her father's honor.
Qian Yi, Kunqu opera singer, Painted Skin
From the age of ten, Qian Yi studied classical Chinese opera (Kunqu) at the Shanghai Opera School. As a member of the Shanghai Opera Company, she became known for her leading roles in The Legend of the White Snake, The Water Margin and other standards of the classical Chinese opera repertoire. The New York Times described her as “China’s reigning opera princess”. In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s epic 19-hour production of The Peony Pavilion. The production toured internationally, playing at major international festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Since coming to the U.S., she has starred in numerous re-workings of Chinese opera for a western theater context, including Ghost Lovers (Spoleto USA), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center) and Snow in June (American Repertory Theater). Qian Yi had her western opera premiere, singing a leading role in the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter.
Qian Yi plays the ghost the China Now Music Festival production of Hao Weiya’s haunting chamber opera, Painted Skin.
Bard Chinese Ensemble, Painted Skin
The Bard Chinese Ensemble is one of the key components of the Chinese instrument major at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, offering numerous public performance opportunities for Bard’s students of Chinese instruments. Students of Western Instruments are also encouraged to participate, as well as non-majors with interest in Chinese music. The Ensemble performs at least one major concert on campus every semester, with other performances both on and off campus throughout the year. Bard Chinese Ensemble is overseen by Chen Tao, an accomplished music educator and master of the dizi (bamboo flute), with additional support from graduate-level US-China Music Fellows and the directors of the US-China Music Institute.
The Orchestra of New Asia CMS, A Journey to the East
Based in New York City, NACMS is committed to bringing audiences exciting chamber music performances of the highest caliber and innovation. By delving into the giants of traditional chamber music repertoire, cultivating new voices of contemporary composers that meld elements of Western and Eastern cultures, and collaborating with a broad network of art organizations – NACMS is creating a trifecta of innovation to enable new concert-going experiences for the audience. A full orchestra of NACMS members has been formed exclusively for the China Now Music Festival’s October 22 concert.
The Orchestra Now (TŌN), Tales from Beijing
The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is a group of vibrant young musicians from across the globe who are making orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences. They are lifting the curtain on the musicians’ experience and sharing their unique personal insights in a welcoming environment. Conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein founded TŌN in 2015 as a master’s degree program at Bard College, where he also serves as president. The orchestra is in residence at Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, presenting multiple concerts there each season as well as taking part in the annual Bard Music Festival. It also performs regularly at the finest venues in New York and beyond, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and elsewhere. The orchestra has performed with many distinguished conductors, including Fabio Luisi, Neeme Järvi, Gerard Schwarz, and JoAnn Falletta. theorchestranow.org
About the China Now Music Festival
The China Now Music Festival is an annual series of events produced by the US-China Music Institute of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of classical music from contemporary China, each year’s festival explores a singular theme. The inaugural festival in 2018, Facing the Past, Looking to the Future: Chinese Composers in the 21st Century, presented US and world premieres of orchestral works by 11 living Chinese composers in concerts at Bard College, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. The following year, the festival presented China and America: Unity in Music at Bard College, Carnegie Hall, and Stanford University, and featured the world premiere of the symphonic oratorio Men of Iron and the Golden Spike, a major new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Zhou Long honoring the Chinese railroad workers of the American West on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Last season’s theme, China and Beethoven, explored the many ways that China has embraced, interpreted, and enthusiastically appreciated the man and his work with a series of musical and scholarly online events, coinciding with the week of Beethoven’s birth in 1770.
About the US-China Music Institute
The US-China Music Institute was founded in 2017 by conductor Jindong Cai and Robert Martin, founding director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, with the mission to promote the study, performance, and appreciation of music from contemporary China and to support musical exchange between the United States and China. In partnership with the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, the Institute has embarked on several groundbreaking projects including the first degree-granting program in Chinese instrument performance in a U.S. conservatory. barduschinamusic.org
About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 162-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
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