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Waves of success

Updated: 2021-06-04 08:17 ( China Daily )
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Conductor Lyu Jia and the China NCPA Orchestra perform at the Wuhan Qintai Concert Hall in April. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Witnessing the birth and growth of a symphony orchestra is a fascinating experience-particularly if you've written some of its history.

That's what conductor Lyu Jia says when he looks back upon his time with the China NCPA Orchestra which started 10 years ago.

When the National Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2007, the venue, designed by French architect Paul Andrew, attracted lots of attention, not only because of its bubblelike aesthetic, which is a distinctive sight alongside Beijing's Chang'an Avenue, but also because it attracted a long list of top global artists and performing arts companies. And, at a time when many of the world's opera houses were cutting their budgets, the venue produced lavish Chinese and Western productions.

To meet the demand of its busy schedule, the venue founded its own symphony orchestra in March 2010 and became the first theater in China to have resident musicians drawn from all over the world.

Invited to take up the position by Chen Zuohuang, the NCPA's founding music director, it took Lyu a while to make the decision, as he had been living and working in Europe for about two decades.

Eventually, though, Lyu saw the opportunity it presented and became the symphony orchestra's first dedicated, in-house conductor.

Born into a musical family in Shanghai, Lyu began studying piano and cello at a young age. He studied conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1987 and, at the age of 24, entered the University of Arts in Berlin in 1988. The following year, he was awarded both the first prize and jury's prize at the Antonio Pedeotti International Conducting Competition in Trento, Italy, which enabled him to launch his career as a conductor.

Before he was appointed as the artistic director for the NCPA and chief conductor of the China NCPA Orchestra, Lyu was previously musical director of Verona Opera in Italy, and was the first Asian conductor to serve as the artistic director of a major Italian opera house-the homeland of the European opera tradition. He was chief conductor at Trieste Opera, and he also led productions at La Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Bavarian State Opera, among others.

He has led orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He was also the first ever Chinese conductor to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and to record the complete orchestral works of German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

"At that time, the China NCPA Orchestra was very young and dynamic. The members of the orchestra were in their 20s and they were passionate about music and eager to learn," recalls Lyu.

In 2008, Lyu performed with the China NCPA Orchestra when the NCPA produced its first opera, Puccini's masterpiece Turandot.

"I enjoyed working with them and wanted to share my experience and put them on the right track. After over 20 years working with European opera houses, I dreamed of conducting the best operas in China. It was time to fulfill that dream, so I returned and accepted the job," says Lyu.

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