Texas Performing Arts is a member of a consortium of about 20 major university presenters (MUPs) who pool resources and intellectual capital to help further the performing arts and develop more creative campuses at the country’s major research institutions. For years, the consortium has worked collectively to develop relationships with international performing artists so that patrons in our respective communities have access to the finest performing arts events in the world.
I am currently in China and will be joined by about ten other consortium members for a cultural expedition to experience the broad range of performing arts that China has to offer. Our trip is being sponsored and coordinated through Arts Midwest and we have hired consultant, Cathy Barbash who specializes in the performing arts in China. Cathy’s first experience with China was when she coordinated the Philadelphia Orchestra’s first tour to China. She also work with Kennedy Center on its 05-06 Festival of China.
I arrive in Shanghai on Friday, several days earlier than my colleagues, and have spent my time exploring the city. I was surprised how westernized the city is and in many way’s it’s a lot like NYC. My long time friends and colleagues, the Shanghai Quartet (now US based), happen to be in Shanghai and I spent my first day with them. Last evening they performed with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. SSO conductor, Yu Long, has engaged the quartet in a three year residency where they come to Shanghai several times a year to play chamber music with other members of the orchestra and serve as principal players in the orchestra’s string section for several concert.
Last night I attended one of the orchestra concerts. The guest conductor was Joseph Silverstein. The program featured Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and his Symphony No. 8 in F major. It was a fine concert and I was especially impressed with the depth and musicality of the string section. The winds, brass played well but their sound was very different from both the American and European orchestral sounds I am more accustomed to. Although the players were technically proficient their sound lacked the warmth and resonance that was so beautifully achieved by the strings.
I am embarrassed to say that the highlight of the evening was the post performance dinner with the Shanghai Quartet and their Chinese colleagues from the string section. I was blinded by the family style feast and the sheer quantity and diversity of the food they ordered. I felt like I was traveling with Andrew Zimmern for an episode of Bizarre Foods. There was duck blood soup, smoked fish soup, tofu skin, pork fat, and more foods I could not begin to name. I tried a little of everything but I could barely keep up and did not care for many of the strange textures.
Regardless, it was a great evening all the way around and I was especially grateful to be there with my friends.
My other colleagues arrive later today and for the next two days we will be seeing performances and rehearsals by the Shanghai Modern Dance Company, Shanghai Traditional Orchestra, Shanghai Ballet and a jazz performance.
More later, so be sure to check back to follow my travels,