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New musical to explore 'rich history' of Tibet

By Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2015-08-10 07:44

Renowned Hollywood composer Klaus Badelt is seeking to internationalize Tibetan music by combining original folk melody with symphony.

He has been working on the musical Dream, which mixes original music from Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, and Baingoin county in the region's Nagqu prefecture.

"It's an amazing opportunity for an artist to explore the rich history of Tibet," Badelt said.

Best known for film scores for Pirates of the Caribbean and Pearl Harbor, and as the only Western composer to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics closing ceremony, Badelt was drawn by the exotic music of Tibet when he first heard it.

During Badelt's first research visit to Tibet, an 83-year-old musician who had lived and worked in Tibet for more than 46 years shared with him his entire collection of original Tibetan music.

Yang Gefang, the music director for Dream, was on the same trip. "We were stunned when we heard it. We could feel the power of the music, although we didn't even understand the lyrics," Yang said.

"I feel like Tibetan music can be appreciated by all people despite their language or skin color," Yang added.

According to Yang, Badelt has said that most music has good and bad sections, but Tibetan music is "all beautiful".

After their trip, Badelt decided to keep the original songs and dances without changing them.

"My intention is to be very true to the original ancient song and dance. I want to incorporate and be influenced and inspired by these songs and dances," Badelt said.

Zhang Yuan, CEO of Kalavinka Co, which invested in the musical, agreed with Badelt's decision.

"Original Tibetan music is like a fine cooking ingredient. What we need to do now is to simply fry it and decorate the plate with symphonic and modern elements to make it look nicer," Zhang said. "The music is so beautiful and touching that it seems disrespectful to make any kind of change."

The UK's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was invited to take part in the musical, marking the first time that a renowned orchestra has played Tibetan music.

For the dancing, Yin Mei, department head and tenured professor of Queens College of City University of New York, was invited to help choreograph the musical.

"It's my first time seeing Tibetan dance, which is nothing like any of the dances I've learned and known before," Yin said. "There's something so pure and so true to life that cannot be described through language and techniques."

Twenty-one untrained dancers from Baingoin county have been selected to dance in the musical.

Ngodrup, a young man who has lived his whole life on the grassland in Baingoin, arrived in Beijing with other local dancers in July for rehearsal. He said dancing and singing are the happiest things in his life.

The musical, adapted from a real-life story, is about a photographer who was saved from a snowstorm by Tibetans and repaid them by helping a sick Tibetan girl seek care.

The musical will be performed in October at Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts.

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