Q&A: Chinese opera soprano Hui He


As the official opening programme of Hong Kong’s first Italian festival Belissima Italia, the Consul General of Italy recently presented Tosca, one of Italy’s (and the world’s) most-loved operas. As a production of Taormina Opera Festival, Tosca starred the world’s leading performers, including Hui He as the leading role. Classically trained in China, Hui has won several international opera awards and now tours worldwide. We caught up with her before the show…

How did you get into opera?
I started studying opera when I was 18. I attended the Conservatory of Music in Xi’an, China. The first time I listened to opera, it was so exciting even though I did not understand a single word. It was Puccini’s La Bohème and I was moved to tears. I immediately loved this art. I thought that was the most beautiful form of art I had ever heard, and that same passion drove me to the opera.

Which opera had the most influence on you?
Verdi’s Aida and his conflicting passions have greatly influenced me.

How do you get into the role of Tosca?
My international career began on 19 February, 2002 at the Teatro Regio in Parma, with the opera Tosca. I was a young singer with little experience on stage, but I received big success because I was inspired by my favorite singer, Maria Callas. Her performances helped me to find the right way to play this role. In 2006, with great pride in being Chinese, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan invited me, as the first Asian artist in its history, to interpret Tosca, a role that is much loved by the Italian public.

How is the transition from living in China to touring worldwide?
After I won two major international competitions (Placido Domingo's Operalia competition and the Giuseppe Verdi), I began my career in Italy in 2002. After the huge success at Parma with Tosca, I have received many invitations from major opera houses of the world, including for example La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Vienna State Opera and even Berlin, Monaco, Paris, Verona and so on. I am very proud as a Chinese singer to have this beautiful international career! 

How does your Chinese cultural background affect your understanding and interpretation of Western works? 
I believe that music is one international language to arouse emotion in people. Music is a bridge for different cultures to keep in touch with one another. As human beings we all share the same emotions. My Chinese cultural background also helps me to learn and enter Western cultural, I find it is just a different way of beauty. 

Have you turned down any roles before? How do you select what roles you take?
I refused the role of Turandot several times. I like to sing roles that are lyrical, but not too dramatic – like the roles of Turandot, Macbeth, Abigail and so on. I prefer to sing Verdi roles more tailored to my voice, so as to keep my voice fresh and young.

Interview by Eunice Tsang



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