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College of Music celebrates vocal exchange

Posted at 2:34 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 14:34:55-05

For the past 10 years, MSU College of Music has provided voice students with the opportunity to embark on a three-week exchange with voice students from universities and conservatories in China. To celebrate the ongoing success of the exchange as well as MSU’s Year of China initiative, the College of Music and China Conservatory of Music in Beijing will work together to perform two operatic productions: one in China and one in the United States.

The American production opens on Wednesday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. in MSU Auditorium’s Fairchild Theatre with “The Savage Land” and “Bernstein Sings America.” The students will give three subsequent performances in Fairchild Theatre: March 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. and March 27 at 3 p.m.

Prior to the East Lansing performances, MSU voice students traveled to China with College of Music faculty to rehearse and perform “The Savage Land” and “Bernstein Sings America” in Beijing. The “goal is to foster musical excellence and cultural understanding while also acquainting students with the challenges of international performance and production,” says MSU Professor of Voice (Tenor) and Chair of the Vocal Arts Area Richard Fracker.

The first production on the bill, “The Savage Land” by Jin Xiang, is a one-act opera and features Chinese classical and folk music. It will be sung entirely in Mandarin, but will include English surtitles above the stage. The opera is set in northern China in the 1920s and centers on a wrongfully imprisoned man who wreaks vengeance on those responsible for his fate.

The second production, “Bernstein Sings America,” is a rollicking revue of Leonard Bernstein’s theatre music, and features pieces from Candide, On the Town, Wonderful Town, West Side Story, and Trouble in Tahiti.

A mix of 26 students from MSU and the China Conservatory of Music will perform in each production.

MSU Professor of Voice (Soprano) and MSU Opera Theatre director Melanie Helton says “we’re extremely excited and hoping this collaboration becomes a jewel in the crown among MSU’s Year of China events. It’s a perfect synthesis.” College of Music faculty and students agree that the performances are “a wonderful opportunity to bring a little bit of home to the Chinese community [in East Lansing] as well as to the American community living and studying in China,” says Fracker.

The MSU Symphony Orchestra will accompany the vocalists at the performances in Fairchild Theatre. David Rayl, professor of music, director of choral programs, and associate dean for graduate studies and research, and Youqing Yang, MSU alumnus and professional conductor from China, will direct the Symphony Orchestra. Helton will be stage director.

The 2015/16 opera season is underwritten by the Worthington Family Foundation. This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts and is part of the MSU China Experience: MSU’s Year of China.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (age 60 and older), and $5 for students, and can be purchased online, at the College of Music box office, by calling (517) 353-5340, in person (333 W. Circle Drive, East Lansing) or at the door.