Once upon a time the words ‘Made In China’ were synonymous with second-rate copies of western goods. But those days are long gone. A quick look around your house and you’ll see just how many of your prized items are made in the People’s Republic.
However, we’ve always assumed in the west that our artistic creations were too unique for China to replicate. The difficulties of language and other cultural specifics would protect them, but on the evidence of this show the Chinese have easily managed to make the operatic form their own.
Dai Yuqiang, Wei Song and Warren Wah-Lun Mok are not only world class singers, but provide a perfect example of the variety of voices within the tenor range. Yuqiang and Song fit in the Pavarotti mould – powerful, resonant, roof shaking – which should come as no surprise given Yuqiang was a student of the late singer and Song is known as China’s own version of Pavarotti. Mok, who possesses the lighter tones of a Mario Lanza, perfect for the romantic tunes he specialises in, blends wonderfully with Yuqiang and Song’s voices, creating a harmonious whole, particularly in the sections of European and Chinese folks songs.
The programme is essentially a greatest hits of opera with Puccini, Verdi and Rossini mixed with the singalong joy of Santa Lucia, Funiculì, Funiculà and most interestingly several beautiful Chinese tunes which fit seamlessly with their European counterparts (although supertitles about large feet and large watermelons do cause some titters).
This isn’t an evening of high culture, but one of high fun as well as a celebration of the unifying spirit of music. Despite the virtuosity of the performers, it was their joy in their art form that came through – despite occasionally being drowned out by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. On the evidence of this show, it’s clear that China has decided to win heart and minds with a new cultural revolution. And it couldn’t have three better standard bearers.