HAMILTON, Canada—With a passion for singing, vocal and performance teacher Susan Gudgeon has three decades of experience as a professional vocalist, actor, dancer, and adjudicator.
So it was with this expertise that she shared her impressions of the vocal soloists she heard at Shen Yun Performing Arts after attending the acclaimed classical Chinese dance and music production at Hamilton Place Theatre on Sunday evening.
“The singing was superb, it was lovely, I loved it very, very much,” said Ms. Gudgeon, who has performed with all the major opera companies and symphonies across Canada in her extensive career, as well as with many theatre companies such as the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival.
Ms. Gudgeon is also recipient of a number of awards and scholarships, including the Lillian Steinberg Award, the Herman Geiger-Torel Scholarship, and the Arnold Walter Opera Scholarship. Her Mercantile Recording, Loving Toi – Murray Schaefer (Ishtar), released in 1980, was a Juno Award nominee.
“It was just stunning, the voices were amazing. I loved the resonating tones. I loved the sounds and the vibrations that they were creating,” Ms. Gudgeon said, especially complimenting sopranos Pi-ju Huang and Haolan Geng.
“It was just beautiful, colourful tone quality—both of the ladies.”
New York-based Shen Yun travels the globe every year with an all-new program of dance, song, and musical scores, showcasing classical Chinese dance as the core of its productions while also including Chinese folk and ethnic dance styles and virtuoso vocalists.
The fundamental characteristic of Shen Yun’s singers is their use of the bel canto operatic technique while singing Chinese lyrics, something that surprised Ms. Gudgeon, who had never heard this type of classical singing in Chinese before.
The singers must grasp the highly difficult technical requirements of bel canto operatic singing while retaining the proper Chinese articulation and diction, according to the company’s website.
The lyrics, all original compositions, are also fondly received by audiences the world over, rich with philosophical reflection about human life, reflecting the spiritual essence of traditional Chinese culture.
“I felt they sang with such commitment and belief, and that was something that was very impressive,” Ms. Gudgeon said.
“They were singing fully from their heart, fully, totally committed. They were truly singing from their soul and their divine being, I felt that completely. I got a sense of spiritual commitment and strength of the spirit.”
Ms. Gudgeon said she was also thrilled with the dynamic of the live orchestra and its unique blend of the sounds of East and West, with traditional Chinese instruments leading the melodies while a Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation.
“The orchestra was fabulous. I loved the combination of the classical Western instruments with the Chinese. They were amazing,” she said.
She also had warm praise for the dance performances, in particular the large-scale group dances and the state-of-the-art animated backdrops behind the dancers that are designed to complement and synchronize every aspect of each dance.
“Everything is so synchronized and perfect, and especially the women, they are so beautiful,” said Ms. Gudgeon. “Everything was just absolutely synchronized to a fault, … and just the human beings working together creating something so beautiful, it was great.
“I enjoyed the show very much. It was a wonderful show,” Ms. Gudgeon said.
Reporting by NTD Television and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company performed three shows in Hamilton Jan. 12-13 and is now heading to Toronto for five shows Jan. 17-20, completing its tour of eastern Canada.