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August 8, 2020

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Nurturing fresh talent for original musicals

Six original Chinese musicals underwent a “midterm exam” in Shanghai this week.

The best four will advance to the final stage of the original musical project sponsored by the 2020 Shanghai International Musical Festival. The ultimate prize for finalists? Meeting with investors who might financially back the staging of their works.

Organized by SAIC Shanghai Culture Square, the yearlong project aims to nurture the development of new musical talent in the younger generation. Nearly 150 works were submitted this year from around China.

“Young creators usually lack the resources to go all the way with a musical,” said Fei Yuanhong, vice general manager of SAIC Shanghai Culture Square and initiator of the project. “But youngsters have positive qualities, like passion, vitality and devotion. I’m happy to see that some of the candidate works this year are powerful and innovative.”

In May, a panel of judges selected six works, all of them still in embryonic form. The composers were then assigned tutors for three months of mentoring and revision of works.

The tutors, who included experienced domestic stage directors and musical producers, worked with the young people on defining major characters, smoothing plots and setting music styles.

The six candidates vying for the final four spots use music to explore a variety of themes.

“Where Are You” is about a misunderstanding and reconciliation between a mother and daughter. “Unable to Access” is a suspense story exploring online violence and rights of speech.

“Last Night of A Radio Station” tells the story of a 35-year-old woman’s love, dreams and growth. “South Wall Plan” follows a son who likes rock music and refuses to follow in the steps of his father’s opera career.

“I Heard It” is a fantasy story about the different attitudes of two youngsters toward life. “Two People’s City” is a love story set in the city of Wuhan during the coronavirus outbreak.

According to panel member Tao Xin, a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, domestic musicals are still in an early development stage though Shanghai occupies a leading position in the country.

“The musical is a young art in China,” said Tao. “Both its creators and audiences are young. We can’t count on veteran stage artists to switch genres and get involved in musicals. Instead, we need to find young, new creators with stories of their generation to tell. This cultivation is more about musical talent than about the works themselves.”

The “midterm exam” was held on Wednesday and Thursday in the form of a public script reading. The panel will announce the results tomorrow. The final four works will then undergo a second round of help, support and refinement from musical professionals.

In December, each work will be presented at a performance attended by potential investors and promoters.

The hope is that all or some may hit the stage someday.


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