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Turn on your TV: It's 'Butterfly Lovers Day'

"BUTTERFLY Lovers Violin Concerto" turns 50 this year and today Dragon TV presents 10 hours of programing dedicated to the classic, including a live concert. Xu Wei reports.

For decades, the beautiful melody of "Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto" has touched the hearts of people around the world. The adaptation of an ancient legend - a tragic romance - it is one of China's most famous musical compositions outside China.

Composed in 1959 in the Western tonal system, it is more accessible to international audiences than other famous works, such as the "Yellow River Concerto."

The violin concerto was composed by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

It was first performed on May 27, 1959, at the Lyceum Theater in Shanghai.

The concerto became hugely popular in the late 1970s after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) was over.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the composition, Dragon TV today presents a day of special programs titled "Butterfly Lovers Day." The 10 hours of programs will run from 12:30pm, including a live commemorative concert at 7:30pm, and interview programs with composer He, music experts and the classic's production team.

Famed scholars Yi Zhongtian, Yu Dan and Qian Wenzhong discuss the music's power and charm.

Composer He will bring his recent scores from the symphonic style Yueju Opera "A Dream of Red Mansions." Music lovers of all ages and backgrounds will be able to chat with He.

The classic concerto plays an important role in the history of Chinese music. Though written in the Western tonal system, namely for the Western-style orchestras, it utilizes many Chinese melodies, chord structures and patterns.

The violin concerto has been performed around the world and adapted into ballet, figure skating and a saxophone concerto by foreign artists.

Famed Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanai will interpret the classic at the commemorative concert.

"I learned about the tale 15 years ago," says Suwanai, "and from this wonderful musical piece I started to learn the history and culture of China."

The concerto is in one movement, with distinct sections, each telling part of the story of "Butterfly Lovers."

Some of the melodies come from the traditional Chinese Opera of the same name or from popular Chinese folk songs. The violin solo is the voice of Zhu Yingtai, the story's protagonist, and the cello is that of her lover Liang Shanbo.

The romance of the two separated lovers - reunited in death as butterflies - is sometimes considered the Chinese equivalent of "Romeo and Juliet."

The tale begins when Zhu disguises herself as a male student and goes to Hangzhou to study. There she meets Liang and the two become bosom friends. He doesn't learn her secret until she invites him home to court her sister.

They learn to their dismay that Zhu has been betrothed to another. Liang languishes and dies. Zhu hurls herself into his grave. Both are resurrected as butterflies.


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