Friday, August 5, 2016

Interview: Xiao Chunyuan and Li Jie - 16 Aug 2016

Singaporean baritone Xiao Chunyuan, Germany-based soprano Li Jie and pianist Beatrice Lin will be performing a wide-ranging programme spanning many decades and languages in their joint vocal recital From Germany to Singapore on 16 August 2016, 8pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio. With a wealth of experience gained from local and European institutions, this concert looks to be a good collaboration between young professional singers. We had a chat with both singers to find out what you can expect come 16 August:

The Mad Scene: Tell us about your programme, what are you performing and why did you choose these selections?

Chunyuan: In this upcoming vocal recital, we have lined up a number of vocal compositions to our audience, ranging from the Baroque period to modern day vocal compositions. Our composers include Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Schoenberg, Mozart, Bellini, Leh├ír, Puccini and Rachmaninoff. Besides these composers, there will be Chinese folksongs and Singaporean art songs as well.

Of the works that we are performing, there will be art songs; opera arias and musical. There will be three duets as well. Works include the rarely heard, the classics and also the controversial. For my first half, I will be singing works by Bach, Beethoven; Brahms and Mozart. Works include art songs such as Wie Melodien zieht es mir and Deh vieni alla finestra from the opera Don Giovanni. For my second half, I will be singing Malinconia, ninfa gentile, When Silent Night Doth Hold Me and my own compositions.

Li Jie: We sing music from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Russia, China and Singapore. Most of the music will be sung in German, Chinese and Italian because I am originally from China, lived in Singapore for about 7 years and am fortunate enough to receive a PR. Now I am studying Music in Germany. I think will our programme will be a very interesting tnternational tour of music from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Russia, China and of course Singapore!

The Mad Scene: How did the two of you decide to perform in a recital together?

Li Jie: In Summer of 2015, I had study holiday in Germany. When I came back to visit my family in Singapore, Chunyuan and I thought to have a chance to work together .

Chunyuan: Our decision to perform together was by chance actually. We met during one of the weeks when she was back from Germany last year and I decided to invite her to join in the fun.

The Mad Scene: How and when did you two know each other?

Chunyuan: I used to watch NAFA vocal concerts which featured Li Jie as well as her coursemates Ying Yue, Su Yiwen and Raymond Lee with pianist Samuel King. Later I went to some performances which featured students from both the Singapore Raffles Music College (where I studied) and NAFA and that is how we get to know each other.

Li Jie: Since I was studying in NAFA, we had heard of each other, but we never talked before. First time ,we only became acquainted when I visited my family in Singapore in 2015.

The Mad Scene: Take us back to the beginning, what inspired your love for singing and music?

Li Jie: When I was a child, my hometown in China has a music channel. Every evening at 6pm, I was always there to listen the singing and music. When i studied in primary school, I am very active in participating in music activities. Another reason is my mum, she loves singing as well and she supports me a lot in my music study.

Chunyuan: Frankly speaking, the passion to sing for me happened  by chance. I did not find my love for singing until I went to secondary school and joined the school choir. After my secondary school graduation, I decided to join an amateur choir called the Hsinghai Arts Association choir. Later in 2005, I decided that I need to improve, thus I decided to learn classical singing. Originally I was supposed to learn from the late NAFA Head of Vocal Studies, Mr Lim Shieh-Yih but he was so busy so I turned to Madam Elena Ng Choy-Luan for vocal instruction. In 2008, I decided to go for full-time studies at the Singapore Raffles Music College and while there, I was under the tutelage of Mr William Lim. In 2012, I went to the University of West London to further my studies and was under Mr Anthony Roden, who was a principal tenor at the English National Opera.

The Mad Scene: How has your love for music informed your life?

Li Jie: Life with music makes me really happy. Although my journey in music studies has not been easy, it makes me become more stronger and independent.

Chunyuan: Though not full circle yet, my love for music has grown even deeper since I decided to go into composing music as well. Besides singing, I focus mainly on composing vocal music, and have composed works including the song cycle Journey and solo pieces such as By the waters of Babylon, based on poems from Singapore.

The Mad Scene: Who are your artistic inspirations, operatic or otherwise?

Chunyuan: My artistic inspirations for my singing is the late German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as I am more of an art song lover and my favourite composer is Franz Schubert. As for inspirations for for my compositions, I get them from poems, especially poetry from Singapore as I want to promote Singaporean works.

Li Jie: Life is my artistic inspiration! I love traveling and getting to know different people from all around the world, different cultures, that makes me more understanding of music. For example, since i am living in Germany, I now speak German, know German people, German culture, German history and have visited many different cities in Germany. It makes me better understand German musical styles and the lyrics in them and that is what I find inspiring.

The Mad Scene: What are your future plans after this recital, music or otherwise?

Chunyuan: I am intending to publish about 30 compositions which I worked on with Singaporean poet Mr Yeo Poh Chuan into a music book. It will hopefully be out in November this yer.

Li Jie: In addition to performing in more concerts and opera scenes, I hope to teach more as well so as to share my love for music with others! I will be performing a concert in Singapore again in December with Martin Ng so stay tuned!

Vocal recital From Germany to Singapore on 16 August 2016, 8pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Contact Xiao Chunyuan at 8691 1647 or Madam Miao at 9273 3596 for tickets.

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