Program Notes | Jan 25, 2020

Lunar New Year Celebration
By Patrick Chamberlain, Director of Artistic Programming

For the NJSO’s second annual Lunar New Year Concert, Music Director Xian Zhang has curated a festive concert of Eastern and Western Musical traditions centered on the expressive possibilities and celebratory qualities of singing. Our program begins with Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture, a 1956 work depicting the celebration of the Spring Festival, or New Year. A compact and joyous expression of exuberance, listeners may note similarities with the folk-influenced works of Copland or Dvořák.

From there, we’ll take a varied journey through classic opera choruses, arias and duets that are interspersed with traditional and modern Chinese songs. Why do works by Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, Bizet and Lehar feature on a concert celebrating the Lunar New Year? For Music Director Xian Zhang, the goal of the NJSO’s concert is to showcase the fun, festive and familiar music associated with both Western symphonic and operatic traditions alongside music that holds a similar place in Chinese culture and community.

Whether heard in the original operatic context, on the concert stage or in car commercials or movie soundtracks, familiar arias and choruses like “Va’ Pensiero” from Nabucco, “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi and “Au fond du temple saint” from The Pearl Fishers are among the most recognizable melodies in Western music. Similarly, the “Kangding Love Song” and many of the traditional songs that conclude tonight’s concert tap into the same familiar sentiments for those of Chinese heritage.

And in a concert based around the unique power and ability of the human voice to tell stories and convey emotion across different languages and cultures, we hope you’ll lend your voice to the celebration as we wish each other a prosperous and joyful Year of the Rat.