Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This shining night

As I celebrated my first four weeks here I learned some new kinds of words:

巴赫 bāhè

莫扎特 mòzhātè

罗西尼 luóxīní

费加罗 fèijiāluó

卡门 kāmén

威尔第 wēiěrdì

墨尔本 mòěrběn

If I told you the last means Melbourne and that this was at the new 上海交响乐团听 Shanghai Symphony Hall you might be able to figure out the rest.

Indeed, the Melbourne Bach Choir finished up a five-city China tour here tonight, and I was lucky enough to get a comp ticket: several of its member are also in my sister's choir, the Gisborne Singers! (One was also bearing esotic Australian fruit marmalades for me.) In perfect contemporary China fashion, the hall, which the singers told me was the best they'd ever sung in, is so new - opened just this month - that the address singers were given (and sent in turn to me) was for an older one, so the evening included a surreal search for the 澳大利亚的朋友 Australian friend I was supposed to be meeting at the 后台入口 stage door of the Shanghai Concert Hall, which was gearing up for an evening of classical Chinese music, and a frantic sprint through People's Square subway station, three stops on the #1 train and another mad dash to the new place, in time to be told that I couldn't get to the stage door without a pass... but in the end all was well, as I spotted some other choir members taking a peek at the foyer, the connection was made, and a delightful evening of operatic and choral pops enjoyed.

In my language textbook I was asked  

Did you come to study or to travel?

and answered, to the smiling bemusement of my tutor (but I dare say in classic Larrimorian fashion), by challenging the question:  

Travel can also be study, right?

Verily, I am learning about the world of Chinese all the time, and some of my most enjoyable lessons are texts I pick up in subway ads, on banners, on WeChat, or on concert programs!

Second from last in the first half of tonight's program was a setting of James Agee's "Sure on this shining night" by Samuel Barber, a special treat for this American abroad. (The recording of the complete Barber songs by Cheryl Studer, Thomas Hampson and the Emerson String Quartet has long been one of my favorite CD sets.) One wishes, of course, for such safety and tranquility in Hong Kong.