MUSCATINE, Iowa – Celebrate the Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day, in the Muscatine Center for Performing Art at Central Middle School with performances by the China National Peking Opera Company, Troupe One, and the spectacular Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra.
This is a rare opportunity to experience and a celebration not to miss with a dazzling combination of vocal artistry, costumes, and acrobatics in three classic scenes to a program of works that honor centuries-old musical traditions performed on exact replicas of the ancient Imperial Bells of China.
The program is free and open to the public with no ticket required. The show begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14, at Central Middle School, 901 Cedar Street, Muscatine.
This is the third stop for the orchestra who will perform in the Chicago Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, on Feb. 10 and in Orchestra Hall of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, on Feb. 12. The group will also perform in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Feb. 18.
Georgia Cassimatis, writing for What’s On Sydney, previewed the orchestra’s planned visit to Australia.
“Magical, mystical, spell-binding, romantic, hypnotizing and simply beautiful,” she wrote. “These are only a few words to describe the grand music, and cultural, historical richness of the internationally acclaimed Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra.
“Historically impressive, the Imperial Bells are the 433BC chime bells, which were unearthed in 1978 in the Zenghouyi Tomb in Hubei Province in China. There are 65 bells with weight up to five tonnes hanging on two sets of wood racks. Visually breathtaking the stage mirrors the Chinese palace symphony orchestra and the ancient Jingchu people’s artistic lifestyle, dating back 2400 years.
“Considered the eighth wonder of the world, the ancient instruments including harps, pipes, bamboo flutes, drums, banjo and ancient Bianzhong Bells are played by an orchestra of over 40 musicians who take you on a journey of famous Chinese music and sensational singing.
“As one is transported back to a time thousands of years ago via the melodious timbres, there awaits a surprise; a beautiful ode to Australia, where the chimes begin playing Waltzing Matilda; with big applause and not a dry eye in the house.”
Members of the orchestra will arrive in Muscatine Wednesday evening (Feb. 13) with a welcome dinner at China Garden Restaurant. Most of the performers will be staying at the Merrill Hotel and Conference Center but some will stay in the homes of Muscatine residents. Home stays has been one of the favorite parts of the performers’ visit to Muscatine and a tradition that continues this year.
Performance day (Thursday, Feb. 14) begins with a tour of Muscatine that includes stops at the Sino-U.S. Friendship House, Muscatine Art Center, Muscatine City Hall, Muscatine Community College, Weed Park, and the Muscatine riverfront. Lunch will be held at the Muscatine History & Industry Center before the performers being taken to Central Middle School for rehearsal and the performance that night.
Unlike years past, the performers will have an extra day in Muscatine before leaving for California. Following breakfast at the Merrill Hotel, performers will be able to spend Friday (Feb. 15) exploring downtown Muscatine, the riverfront, and doing some shopping. Friday afternoon will feature Chinese Cultural Day activities that will include the performers visiting with Muscatine students in various classrooms.
The Muscatine China Initiative Committee (MCIC) is coordinating the event and supported by the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago.
MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM AND PERFORMERS
The first half of the program features the Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra performing works that transport listeners to ancient China. In 1978, a set of 2,500-year-old bronze and stone chime bells were excavated from the tomb of a Chinese ruler from the Bronze Age in Hubei, China. Believed to be the earliest twelve-tone equal temperament instruments in the world, these chime bells create an authentic, melodious timbre and also are breathtaking to behold due to their grand scale and elaborate cast technique. Additionally, other traditional instruments are featured on the program, including the qing, a stone or jade chime; the xun, a vessel flute; and the se, a plucked zither.
The second half of the concert features Troupe One of the China National Beijing Opera Company presenting three scenes from the Peking opera repertoire that include instrumental music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. Dressed in traditional costumes with full makeup, celebrated performers Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu are featured on a program that includes scenes from three classic Peking operas: Divergence, Palace of Eternal Life, as well as Uproar in Heaven, a classic Chinese story that follows the adventures of the mischievous Monkey King who wreaks havoc in his rebellion against the Jade Emperor.
The Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra is a part of the Hubei Provincial Opera and Dance Drama Theatre, which is a leading performing arts organization that produces and performs traditional and folk opera, dance and music of the Hubei province. Committed to innovation in the arts, the theatre has won numerous awards including the first prize of the Excellent Performance Award of the first China Opera Festival, a Wenhua Award and Hubei Five-One Project Award. Through their international tours, the Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra commits itself to cultural exchange and establishing connections between Chinese people and people from all over the world through visual and auditory performances.
Founded in 1955 as China’s premier Peking opera organization, the China National Beijing Opera Company is one of the national ensembles of performance arts directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, People’s Republic of China. The company includes acclaimed performers, playwrights, directors, composers and stage designers and has presented productions ranging over the wide diversity of Peking opera performance styles. The company’s Troupe One is its most esteemed, delivering the highest quality performances of traditional and contemporary repertoire. Masters of their generation, leading artist Yu Kuizhi and acclaimed director Li Shengsu have enhanced the artistic style of Troupe One, which also includes numerous performers who have won awards in national