Orchestras make sweet music outdoors –

Musicians rehearse for an outdoor concert at the Tianjin Grand Theater this month.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Open-air performances attract audiences during pandemic

Closing her eyes and reclining in her seat, Tang Xiaogu spent a memorable evening in Tianjin this month listening to musicians from three symphony orchestras perform at an open-air concert.

Tang not only enjoyed the music, but also the cool summer air and the soothing sound of water cascading from a fountain.

The concert on Aug 17, which featured musicians from the Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei symphony orchestras performing under the baton of conductor Li Biao, was the first at the Tianjin Grand Theater since the venue closed due to the coronavirus pandemic more than 200 days ago.

The works performed included the classic Chinese concerto Butterfly Lovers, played by violinist Lyu Siqing, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, and Lezghinka, from composer Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane.

An audience of about 800 sat on stairways encircling the main stage, which was set against the backdrop of a lake, park and the fountain.

Tang, 30, said: “I am a big fan of classical music and often watch performances at the Tianjin Grand Theater. The last one I saw there before the pandemic was on Jan 17. It’s been such a long time and I couldn’t wait to get back to the theater.”

“It’s a bit like going to an outdoor music festival, and summer is the very best time of year to listen to classical music concerts outdoors.”

The work Wuhan 2020, written by conductor Li’s longtime friend, the German composer Enjott Schneider, premiered at the concert. The 10-minute piece, which was written in just two days, portrays emotions triggered by the virus, such as fear, depression, confidence and courage.

The performing arts industry was badly affected when the pandemic emerged early this year. Concerts and other live shows were canceled and audiences urged to stay home to curb the spread of the virus.

On Aug 10, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said theaters could limit attendance at each performance to 50 percent of capacity, with audience members not allowed to sit next to one another. In May, the government announced that theaters in low-risk areas could reopen, but only at 30 percent of capacity.

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