Celebrating 60 years of butterfly love

Based on one of China's four great folktales, "The Butterfly Lovers," a violin concerto telling a story ill-starred love, is returning on the 60th anniversary this year.
Celebrating 60 years of butterfly love
Ti Gong

Composer Chen Gang (third right) and Kunqu artist Shen Yili (second right) at the art salon last week

In 1958 when Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, both students at Shanghai Conservatory of Music, composed violin concerto “The Butterfly Lovers,” they could never have expected it to become a timeless classic. A year later, it premiered in Shanghai and soon swept the whole country.

Based on one of China’s four great folktales,  “The Butterfly Lovers” is returning to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.

Last week Chen Gang, one of the composers, shared his passion and the story behind the creation of the “The Butterfly Lovers” at a local art salon.

To celebrate the anniversary, Chen revealed that he will work with the China Beaufin National Orchestra on a new-media concert at Shanghai Oriental Art Center on September 22.

The show will also include Chen’s “Love Tragedy” and “Wang Zhaojun.”

“Love Tragedy” will be a cross-media piece based on Kunqu Opera. Shen Yili, a well-known Kunqu artist, will take to the stage together with a symphony orchestra. Violinist Huang Mengla will be the soloist.

Now in his 80s, Chen puts more fun and less “killing himself” into his compositions these days. His recent works include a series of trios based on Chinese operas. Chen said that since music knows no borders and speaks for itself, the most important thing is to present works that are both quintessentially Chinese and modern.

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