Chinese orchestra to perform for Pope in Vatican

By Chen Jie (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-05 06:44

The Beijing-based China Philharmonic Orchestra arrived in Rome yesterday on a performing tour of three European cities, the first leg of which is the Vatican.

Under the baton of artistic director Yu Long, the orchestra will perform for Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday at the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Vatican's principal auditorium.

Considering the special venue and that the Pope is a big Mozart fan, the concert will start with Mozart's Requiem while the well-known Chinese folk song Jasmine Flower will be the grand finale.

The orchestra will be accompanied by the Shanghai Opera House Chorus.

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"It is a people-to-people exchange event through culture and art," said an official from the Foreign Ministry. "Music is a universal language that can bring together people from different countries, and from different religious and cultural backgrounds. We hope the concert is a big success."

Vatican Radio, which first reported the concert, said: "Music is confirming its role as a language and the most precious medium for dialogue among peoples and cultures."

"I certainly feel very excited. It is a historic visit. Although we played in Rome in 2004, this will be the orchestra's first appearance at the Vatican," conductor Yu told China Daily.

According to Yu, the concert was initiated by the Chinese side and the performance was planned relatively quickly.

Yu, 44, the Shanghai-born and German-trained conductor, likened the orchestra's visit to "ping pong diplomacy," referring to the visit by American table tennis players to China in 1971, which opened the door of China-US exchanges.

The philharmonic performed Mozart's Requiem at St Joseph's Church (Dongtang Cathedral) two years ago. On April 8, the orchestra and Shanghai Opera House Chorus presented the same concert at St Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai to an audience of more than 1,000, to mark the church's 400th anniversary.

Yu said that helped pave the way for the coming performance at Vatican.

"That opened up this kind of territory," Yu said, adding that such a concert provides a common vehicle for promoting dialogue and peace.

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