Opera buffa in quattro atti
Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte
In Italian Language
Hello China!!! We have arrived!! First a quick flight from Salzburg to Vienna, then 10 hours to Shanghai, followed by a 3 hour bus ride to Hangzhou... What a journey! Upon arrival we were greeted by sunny 30 degree weather and a delicious family-style Chinese lunch. This afternoon we took a walking tour of the Zhejiang Conservatory Campus. Each building is designed to look like a musical instrument! The modern architecture and state of the art facilities create an inspiring and impressive environment. We even had a chance to step on the stage and get a first feeling for the theater...! This evening we were invited to attend a Traditional Chinese Dance Performance, which was unlike anything we had ever experienced. The combined energy of the dancers and the audience kept us on the edge of our seats, but eventually jetlag gets the best of all of us! It's 10pm and time for a good night's rest... Looking forward to tomorrow's first rehearsal with the Zhejiang Conservatory Orchestra!!
We're feeling much better today after a long sleep where we could lie down and stretch out. Now to kick off the hard work with our first orchestral rehearsals. We're experiencing the true challenges of an international singer's life as we strive to overcome jetlag with fresh voices.
The orchestra is made up of students and professors. It's really exciting to sing through the piece with a full orchestra so we can find new colours and impulses. Returning to the piece after a few weeks definitely gave it the space needed to develop with our new energy.
Our hosts are so very generous and accommodating, they go above and beyond to meet our every need. We are spoilt at every meal with an endless assortment of delicious traditional dishes! I think we might be needing to buy some extra kilos on the flight home... And not for the luggage. It is really such an honour to be here, the university facilities are so very impressive!
Our group is bonding and really getting to know one another better. For example we've discovered that our Chinese cast members also have English names. Introducing: Chi-An (Andy (by day, Candy by night)), Yu Hsuan (Martin) und Hongyu (Taichy)!
In the afternoon between rehearsals we had some free time and went to explore the uni surroundings. Since Starbucks was closed, we took the opportunity to try bubble tea and Chinese baked goods. We also have a new member of our group Jaccquelin Chan (AKA Jackie Chan the plush rabbit). It was thrilling watching us all satisfy our claw machine addiction. And although it would probably have been cheaper to buy Wendy a soft toy, victory was ours! Another surge of energy and we were jumping off the outdoor fitness playground. Still working hard even in our spare time...
A surprising day! Today everything was great for us: the eating culture, collaboration, and theatre.
In the morning we had a scenic talk and walk through with Roy and Domenica because the staging is quite different and we had to reconfigure many things.
In the afternoon we were invited to a concert of the Zhejiang conservatory students... Or so we thought. The concert was actually a Masterclass and the master was to be our dear professor Kai Röhrig. It was really a surprise because he also found out at the last minute. After all of the confusion it turned out to be a very lovely chamber music masterclass.
In the evening, we moved into the theatre for the first scenic rehearsal on stage. We were all very excited. It was especially nice was seeing the 'Just Married' sign as many familiar feelings returned and we immediately felt at home! However we had some problems as the stage is too large for our stage design. We had to make many adjustments with the props etc.
So today wasn't exactly an easy day, but we are improving!! Only 3 days until our performance... the anticipation builds!
Breakfast was great as always and we received once again a great variety of delicacies. The morning rehearsal ran better than expected and we carried this good feeling into our midday break. A few of us took rest while the others went for coffee in the village. The coffee run turned into a souvenir shopping adventure and Martin (Yu Hsuan) was kind enough to be our guide, offering helpful translations as we couldn't say more than "nihao" (hello), "she she" (thank you), and "ban ban" (well done).
After a very successful shopping trip, that led us past several small rooftop Eiffel Towers and into a large grocery market (where we found Candy-Andy's home), we ended up at the taxi stand. The decision was unanimous for the 4 of us to squeeze into a ''beng beng" (A Chinese autorickshaw, similar to a "tuk tuk"), with which we made our way back to the university. It was an experience! Sometimes we had the feeling that the driver fell asleep on the horn, but it seemed as if that were a friendly hello for all of the other drivers!
After a quick dinner, which we also packed in to-go boxes to enjoy after rehearsal, we were fit to start the second half of our long rehearsal day. The rehearsal ran smoothly as we adapted to new situations and props. For example our axe is much smaller (more similar to a tomahawk) and the cake is now a large wedding present!
Tomorrow evening we have the final dress rehearsal with costume and makeup... Let's see who runs first the orchestra or the makeup! ;-)
A glass of green tea, a little bowl, a spoon, a pair of chop sticks and a mysterious white box. This is what we have come to respect for lunch every day in our separate little part of the canteen. For those of you who consider this normal, you would be deceived. The public canteen is downstairs where the food is served quite differently..
One now take off the lid of the box and... "Oohh!! Aahh!! Whaa?? Yu Hsuan, Chi-An, Honyu, what is that?
Can we eat that?" .. are just some of the questions and sentences floating through the room.
" Yes yes, this is traditional Chinese food!!", is then the immediate response that most quickly comes from Yu Hsuan.
What looks dangerous, is a very delicious and unique experience for all of us. Our hosts take such good care of us serving so many delicacies, which some of us were not able to try until now.
Besides the boxes there are different fresh meals served almost every minute, mostly for dinner, and put on rotating glass plate in the center of the round table, which always a little too small. So everyone has the opportunity to try and grab everything he or she wants. But this appears not to be that easy as we argue about the turning tempo off the glass plate. Somebody wants the duck soup, the second wants the fish and the third want the pork with pumpkin. As you can see, we are dealing with different problems than in Salzburg.
The food is so delicious here, that we quickly asked our host Jimmy Wu, if there was a way to get the recipes of these delicacies. With a twisted smile and a hand in his pocket he answered "did you know here our cooks don't cook from recipes. When you ask them how much oil they need for something, they will say "about this much". And when you want to know how much exactly he will be unable to give an answer. Everything is cooked by feeling and experience. Also Chinese food is measured by 4 elements, colour, smell, taste and presentation. This anecdote we could well imagine, as we received daily, the colourful, formed, fragrant meals that we couldn't help but marvel at.
Before meals, we each grab our smart phones and if the meals weren't so delicious, then we would just spend the evening looking, smelling and guessing what was on our plates.
Today is finally the wedding day of Gary (Figaro) and Susy (Susanna) in Hangzhou, China!
For a nice start to this beautiful day a few of us went into the city to buy some Chinese goodies. Everything got a little out of hand when we entered a very lovely little tea shop... The shelves were full of beautiful teaboxes, and when we heard that they sold them for only 5 Yuan, which is about €0,40, everyone went crazy!! Soon we were all shouting to each other: "Ah wow, have you seen this one?! This one is so beautiful! Oh I want that one too!" I think the owners of the shop never had seen something like this before! They stood there watching us in amazement with a very big smile on their faces. All together, we ended up with about 22 teaboxes!
During lunch we received some exciting information about the show tonight. We were notified that the performance will be filmed with 5 professional cameras in order to be edited and distributed as a DVD, and that the video will be broadcasted on Hangzhou TV!!! Of course everyone was very excited about that! And then we got even more good news: the tickets are sold out! We will be performing for a FULL house! With all of this in mind, the pre-performance tension was high especially when we heard that the state governor would be in the audience.
It only felt real when the orchestra started playing the overture....
It took a little while for the audience to get into the piece and understand that it was ok to react, but soon they were roaring with laughter. They loved it! The applause was so great that we all felt like superstars! Chi-An was particulary popular with the ladies! A large group of young girls ran onto the stage to take pictures with him after the show. In fact, it was surprising how many audience members joined us on stage immediately afterwards to take selfies! We all felt very honored with all the admiration and thanks that they gave us.
After a long week of jetlag and intensive rehearsals, it's safe to say we are all exhausted, but we are thrilled with the outcome!! Tonight's performance was so special. It was a very enjoyable evening sharing the stage with both my Mozarteum and Zhejiang colleagues! BRAVI TUTTI!!!!
The Day After The Wedding
Today our "Figaro Mobile" takes us in the direction of the Hangzhou city center! After our bus ride, which was accompanied by lots of honking and cutting off other drivers on the road, we arrived at our first stop: the Chinese National Silk Museum.
There we were astounded by the colors, craftsmanship, and history behind of 1400 years worth of traditional Chinese Silk Clothing that made it's way around the globe on the Silk Road. At the end of our tour we had a quick look at the gift shop, but unfortunately the prices were higher than we were prepared to spend especially knowing that our sight-seeing day had only just begun.
Our next stop was located in an ancient neighborhood of Hangzhou (Hangzhou-Soncheng) at an open-air street market with many small shops offering silks, teas, fans, sweets, and all kinds of souvenirs. After a mid-day snack of Dimsum Dumplings, we made our way towards the West Lake district to visit the Chinese National Tea Museum. As soon as we exited the bus we were immediately greeted by a lush green landscape of tea fields surrounded by forest. The fresh air and greenery gave us the feeling that we had suddenly arrived in a tourtoise house in a zoo! Waiting for us at the museum was an English tourguide who taught us about the history of the Chinese Tea Tradition. In the beginning tea was regarded solely as a medicine, but quickly it developed into a highly desired drink that the Chinese could consume daily. Following our tour we were then given the opportunity to try 4 different types of tea: Green, Black, Jasmine, and Oolong.
The tea ceremony was held by a lady who explained everything perfectly. She even had these Chinese figures made from purple clay that change colour when in contact with hot water or absorb and "release" water when the water reached the perfect temperature, "wee" had some fun.
Afterwards our group was so enthusiastic that we bought enough tea in the gift shop for the whole year! We then continued on our way to the Western Lake.
The lake was lined with green forest, hills, and an impressive skyline depicting the unique phenomena. The West Lake lies in the middle of a green paradise that is located directly in the center of the city of Hangzhou.
We then boarded a boat in order to explore the lake which was originally intended to serve as a militarybase.
The next bus trip showed how spontaneously artists can get dressed as we got ready for dinner on the road. We arrived at the hotel on the Wersten lake (Si-Hu) where the government officials from different countries gathered for the 2016 G20 Summit! It was a reception like that for world leaders! Food of the highest quality in abundance!!! (10 courses)!!
-Steak with Rice cookies filled with Chinese salad
-Lou-Fish (Western Lake)
-Pickled fish in a sweet soy sause
-Chinese mushroom und chicken soup
-Longingtea with Chinese soup
... to name a few!
Chinese rice wine was also flowing to accompany the food, with which we toasted the president of the Zhejiang Conservatory. The toasts continued throughout the evening!
Our palates were spoilt, we enjoyed the sun set on the Western lake from the hotel and were again praised for our artistic efforts.
As a farewell gift and thank you, Mr. President presented us with real Chinese silk scarves. After a thank you speech from Kai, Elisabeth presented the President with a Facsimile of "A Little Night Music" by Mozart on behalf of the University Mozarteum.
The farewell was very heartfelt as we drive back to the campus. It was a crazy eventful and special day for us!!!
"A tutti contenti"
Now we need to pack our suitcases, as tomorrow our final day, filled with surprises, awaits!
(Jakob Hoffmann and Yu Hsuan Cheng)
Our last day in China was spent in ShangHai. We found a big buffet style restaurant offering a wide variety of traditional Chinese food for lunch. Since we are such a large group, it was nice that we could individually look around and choose the food we wanted to try. After lunch we visited the famous Taoist Temple of ShangHai , which was built 600 hundred years ago. Chinese people continue to come here to pray for love, longevity of life, and wealth... After lunch we visited the formerly private Yu Gardens. It is so unbelievable that this beautiful estate used to belong to one person. After touring the gardens, we finally began to do the thing that we really wanted to do the most: shopping "
There is a very large shopping area surrounding the Taoist Temple , offering at least a thousand small specialty shops. Since we are a large group it was easy for everyone to explore and find something special. For me it was exciting to be the group "tour guide". I am so happy that I could use my best ability, speaking Chinese, to discuss and haggle with the shop owners for the best price - like a soldier fighting to save money for everybody. After shopping, we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant near The Bund, and at 19:00 o'clock, all of the downtown city skyscrapers light up with a show of colorful neon lights. It is really amazing! The night sky became a kaleidoscope of colors, the ships gliding along in an endless stream, and the gentle breeze fanning our faces, everything was really romantic!
Now we are all sitting together on the floor in Shanghai's Pudong Airport, waiting for the airplane to fly back to Salzburg. It is really like a dream... the feeling of excitement that we had when we waited to board the airplane to go to China is still so clear, as though it just happened seconds ago. I think this trip will be really unforgettable for all of us. Especially as an introduction to my beloved culture, language, food, and historical sights. Of course the most important and meaningful take-away from the trip is that we had the opportunity to bring opera to an audience who previously had no exposure to opera. Even for my parents, who traveled from HeNan to attend our performance in Hangzhou, it was their first time watching me sing opera on stage! Through our performance we were able to break stereotype beliefs that opera is boring and will make you fall asleep. Instead the audience was laughing at our jokes, applauding frequently, and overall enjoyed the performance so much that many people rushed onto the stage afterwards to personally congratulate and take selfies with us! I am really proud to be a part of our Figaro team! We helped each other and trust each other - After these nine days we really feel like a big family!
In the end I would like to say, even though this journey is coming to a close, we still have a lot of beautiful adventures waiting for us in the future! For some of us, myself included, this is our last semester with the Mozarteum, so for us it is like a precious graduation journey. What a wonderful way to end my studies. I would like to offer a heartfelt wish to my Figaro family that we are all able to make our dreams come true! Perhaps there are also difficult times waiting for us, but do not fear, just remember, more exciting adventures are also ahead and we will always have each other! We can do it ! I love you guys! All the best!!