State leaders and their spouses in Hangzhou for the G20 Summit enjoyed a feast for the eyes on Sunday night with a gala on the city's much-storied West Lake.
The 45-minute visual extravaganza, Most Memorable Is Hangzhou, a title taken from a poem by Bai Juyi (772-846), highlighted the city's rich cultural legacy as well as incorporated international elements that subtly reflect the state of today's globalization.
The evening was billed as a symphony concert, using a musical idiom that director Zhang Yimou chose for its broadly international resonance. Traditional Chinese instruments wove in with the sounds of a standard orchestra in an East-meets-West marriage suggestive of exchanges in other areas.
Dancers performed in the beautifully lit background in what looked like shallow water, and solo performances were on a floating platform.
In such a setting, segments from the famous Russian ballet Swan Lake, which received instant applause when the first dancer appeared, gained a heightened realism thanks to ingenious lighting and projection.
Clair de Lune never achieved a more shimmering effect than Sunday night as the reflections in the water brought out visual parallels with the Claude Debussy music. The classic Chinese piece, High Mountains and Flowing Waters, is much more about natural scenery. It was a metaphor for ancient Chinese literati to denote friendship, and its inclusion in the program is obviously a hint at the partnerships being formed by events like this summit.
The opening numbers, however, were rooted in local narratives. Spring River in the Flower Moon Night originated from a Tang Dynasty (618-907) poem, which has evolved into a staple in music and dance.
Picking Tea Leaves is a folk song and the tale of Butterfly Lovers, was partly set in Hangzhou.
This story alone could have run the whole evening in various art forms.
Filmmaker Zhang is the mastermind of many renowned stage spectacles, including the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The West Lake show had a subdued grace by his standards, reaching its climax with Beethoven's Ode to Joy, with dancers seeming to splash up waterspouts and finally fireworks.
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