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A key figure promotes the city

By Zhang Kun | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-15 08:18
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Mario Alonso Herrero participates as the tourism ambassador in Shanghai city's celebration of the Chinese New Year plays a recital at Shanghai Oriental Art Center in 2022. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Spanish pianist, who made the bustling metropolis his home, named as tourism ambassador, Zhang Kun reports.

Spanish pianist Mario Alonso Herrero has been appointed as ambassador in the promotion of Shanghai as an international tourist destination. Having lived in the city for more than seven years, he believes Shanghai is the perfect home for a musician like himself.

In the role, he recently witnessed China's first domestically built cruise ship depart on her maiden voyage, and attended the lighting ceremony of the lantern show at Yuyuan Garden during the city's Chinese New Year celebrations. He speaks and reads fluent Chinese, cooks authentic Chinese food and, in playing more than 30 concerts around China every year, he always manages to include some Chinese music into his repertoire.

One of Spain's most internationally renowned pianists, Alonso Herrero was described by Audio Classical magazine as "a pianist possessing the talent and intelligence necessary for piano interpretations and endowed with the maturity and professionalism needed to overcome any technical difficulty".

Alonso Herrero has received awards in 15 national and international competitions in Cagliari, Parma, Valencia and San Sebastian. He was winner of the first Grand Prize and a gold medalist in the International Piano Competition Panama in 2006. In 2005 and 2008, he received the prestigious Juventudes Musicales award in Madrid from Her Majesty the Queen Sofia of Spain.

Mario Alonso Herrero participates as the tourism ambassador in Shanghai city's celebration of the Chinese New Year plays a recital at Shanghai Oriental Art Center in 2022. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The 41-year-old musician used to study music and has lived in the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Having traveled to more than 50 countries, in 2017, he chose to settle down in Shanghai.

"After a week in Shanghai I felt like I belonged here — I didn't feel that way living three years in the UK," he says, and attributed that to the friendliness of people in Shanghai, and common values between Spain and China.

Another important reason why he feels at home in Shanghai is that, as a musician in constant need of inspiration, Shanghai offers a rich cultural life, with colorful theater shows, museums, art exhibitions and a multicultural landscape that integrates both the old and new, and Chinese and Western elements.

In Shanghai, he has played at the 97-year-old Shanghai Concert Hall, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center in Pudong, and the Poly Grand Theater in the suburban Jiading district. Next month, he will play in another new concert hall, the AIA Grand Theater, a 1,715-seat hall sitting on the northern tip of the Western bank of the Huangpu River that officially opened in September.

Alonso Herrero notes that, in the past decade, new performing arts venues have mushroomed not only in Shanghai, but also the second-and-third tier cities in China. Equipped with modern facilities, they have nurtured wider public interest in classical music and, as a result, he has found that audiences are more knowledgeable about music, compared to 2014, when he played his first concert in Shanghai.

Next week, he will embark on a recital tour to 15 cities around China, playing a repertoire of Bach, Chopin, Liszt and Prokofiev, visiting cities such as Changsha in Hunan province, Fuzhou in Fujian province, Zhengzhou in Henan province, and Hefei in Anhui province.

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