Alumna performs in Chinese opera
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 22:10
Students choose to go down a plethora of different paths once graduating from the University of Connecticut–some go onto graduate school, some start a job and some decide to do something completely out of the ordinary. And this is exactly what UConn graduate Lauren Woody chose to do when deciding to audition for I Sing Beijing.
“I Sing Beijing was created as a response to the rise of a dynamic scene for vocal arts in China that is evidenced by a dual phenomenon,” explains the I Sing Beijing website, isingbeijing.org. “Currently in large- and medium-sized cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, approximately 50 Western ‘opera houses’ have been built, most notably Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts designed by Paul Andreu, the Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Guangzhou Centre for the Performing Arts designed by Zaha Hadid. Construction of opera houses in smaller Chinese cities is also in full swing.”
Denise Gorant Gliwa is the Director of Communications for I Sing Beijing and explained it is the brainchild of one of today’s most talented operatic basses, Hao Jiang Tian, who was the principle soloist for 19 seasons with the Metropolitan opera. “[Tian] is one of the first generation of Chinese singers to reach the pinnacle of Western operatic arts,” explained Gliwa. “Mr. Tian founded I Sing Beijing last year in an effort to create new channels for exchange and education between the two regions–East and West–who gave so much to him.”
Woody auditioned for I Sing Beijing in Jan. of 2012. According to Gliwa, “Ms. Woody was selected following auditions of hundreds of singers in Europe and the U.S. She was among 31 singers to participate in I Sing Beijing and become among the first Western singers to perform modern Chinese opera on the stage of the prestigious National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China.”
Said Woody of her audition, “It was at the audition where I met the director, Hao Jiang Tian, whose passion for teaching others about China is contagious. I was accepted into the program as one of only 16 Americans. I couldn’t resist the chance to go to China and immerse myself in culture and music.”
Woody has been interested in music for her entire life. A graduate of Stamford High School, she was a part of orchestra, chorus, and musical theatre groups. However, she said, “it wasn’t until [she] started studying at the UConn School of Music that [she] developed a passion for opera and classical music.” She received both a Bachelor of Music degree and a Master of Music degree in vocal performance.
Woody is very happy that she decided to audition for the program and grateful for all she learned through her time with it.
She said of her experience, “The coaches, conductors and teachers were all first-rate. We spent the majority of our time in musical rehearsals and Mandarin class preparing for the gala concert at the NCPA. One of the pieces I sang was ‘A Man Lives But Once’ from the Mandarin opera, ‘The Savage Land’ with John Pumphrey, a tenor from Scotland. The ovation at the end of the performance was incredible. I’ve never experienced a more appreciative and excited audience.”
Woody believes that learning the language of Mandarin in the first few days of the experience was the most difficult aspect of joining the program, though rewarding nonetheless. “Since we knew we had only one month to prepare for the gala concert at the NCPA for an audience of 2,000 native speakers, we wanted to make sure our diction was the best it could possibly be,” said Woody of learning the language. “Luckily, we used Pinyin, which is a phonetic system to learn Mandarin by transcribing Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet. Nonetheless, it was still difficult to get each sound just right.”
Currently, Woody is performing with opera companies in California. She is also putting together a recital series with a colleague she met during her duration with I Sing Beijing. “We will be singing opera arias, songs and duets in Mandarin throughout the San Francisco bay area this winter and the spring of 2013,” said Woody. “The music we found in China is very popular, but extremely rare and difficult to find in the US. It’s wonderful to bring these songs we discovered in Beijing back to the US.”
Students interested in learning more about I Sing Beijing can visit isingbeijing.org. They can also experience Woody’s opera performance in Beijing on YouTube.