A rapturous performance on Monday featuring superstar soprano Renée Fleming, Maestro Long Yu, and the China Philharmonic Orchestra drew the 22nd Beijing Music Festival (BMF) to a dramatic close. This season explored a new style of classical music with today’s most cutting-edge expressive forms.
Held every October, BMF is the most important cultural event in China. For two decades – 1998-2018 – world-renowned conductor Long Yu established a rich artistic foundation. And beginning in 2018, artistic director Shuang Zou has succeeded in incorporating more inclusive and avant-garde artistic elements to the festival. BMF presented 22 performances (16 unique programs) this year between October 4 and 28 including a wide variety of operas, symphonic concerts, recitals, chamber music concerts, and virtual reality music experiences. The festival also presented more than 12 free educational events including children’s concerts, masterclasses, and lectures.
BMF‘s 22nd season made great strides into forging new initiatives for the 21st century. Intent on exploring innovative and boundary-crossing presentations, the festival showcased diverse works of music drama and theatre including the mainland Chinese premiere of the opera Angel’s Bone by Du Yun; the Asian premiere of Eight, Michel van der Aa’s latest work of mixed-reality musical theater, co-commissioned by BMF; and the acclaimed performance of Max Richter’s 8-hour composition, Sleep, at the foot of the Great Wall.
The season also honored the rich tradition of classical music. Highlights included legendary soprano Edita Gruberová; BMF’s first resident orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, led by Vladimir Ashkenazy; master pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet; the China premiere of Handel’s Xerxes by Opera Fuoco, conducted by David Stern; Maestro Charles Dutoit with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra; Maestro Pinchas Zukerman; and the music prodigy Alma Deutscher.