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Mandarin opus

By Vera Penêda (Global Times)

09:54, August 27, 2012

It's no understatement to say that Irene Savignano is lost in translation. The 20-year-old Italian soprano is learning Putonghua from a Chinese tutor who teaches her in English, a language of which Savignano knows few words and must therefore rely on secondary translation into Italian from a Mexican colleague.

Despite these linguistic hurdles, Savignano studied enough Chinese over five weeks to sing "Jasmine Flower," an 18th century Chinese folk song that she will perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) tomorrow.

Savignano is the youngest performer among a group of 21 foreign opera singers from six countries in Beijing to participate in the educational and cultural exchange program "I Sing Beijing." As the only program that teaches Western vocalists to sing classic Chinese repertoire in Chinese, it aims to introduce Western audiences to traditional music from the country and formalize Chinese as one of the bel canto languages.

Ten Chinese singers will join the 21 foreign vocalists to sing a compilation of classic Chinese and foreign operas in four performances of "I Sing Beijing" scheduled between August 28 and September 4.

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