Lu Pei (b. 1956) is a celebrated Chinese American composer who currently serves as a composition professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. His work is known for its varied use of Chinese folk tunes. He lived in the United States a long time, which cultivated within him abundant Western musical influences. The sound of multi-ethnic elements is greatly reflected in his own music. Writing an opera has always been his ultimate dream as a composer, and after many years of work, the opera The Third of March was completed and premiered in 2018 in Guangxi. It has received wide acclaim and has been a favorite of younger listeners. Lu Pei aims to bring young people to modern music and the Chinese opera, not only using traditional Chinese musical elements, but also adopts “reinvented” modern Western musical styles, giving a new identity to the Chinese opera is the main foci of The Third of March.
To prepare for my performer’s guide to The Third of March, I will discuss Lu Pei’s inspirations from the Guangxi Song Fairs, and the music and culture of the Zhuang people surrounding the date in the Chinese lunar calendar, March Third. For Westerners unfamiliar with Lu Pei’s music, I will briefly introduce the compositional blending of Western and Chinese musical styles with a section about Chinese composers active in the United States, Chen Yi (b. 1953), and Tan Dun (b. 1957). I will also include a brief outline of the history of Chinese opera development, and Lu Pei’s compositional concepts and the background of the opera The Third of March will be discussed.
My performer’s guide, the primary focus of this project, will begin by stressing Lu Pei’s adoption of different Chinese folk songs and Western compositional elements. These techniques clearly gave the piece a unique stylistic identity. I will give a brief overview of the Chinese language diction in International Phonetic Alphabet. Finally, the qualities of the main arias in the opera, and some of the Chinese operatic techniques for singers, and their special effects, will be explored.