An organisation set up by a graduate entrepreneur to help musicians bridge the gap between their education and a career is now bringing an opera classic to the stage in London, with a cast made up from the artists it has helped develop.
Operatic soprano Beibei Wang, from Shenzhen in China, graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire (UK), part of Birmingham City University, with an MA in Music in 2012.
Since then, Beibei has set up her own organisation called East-West Arts Initiative, which aims to introduce classical musicians to wider audiences through artist management, promotions and touring opera productions. As the name suggests, her Initiative also provides a conduit for artists who are wishing to develop their career more widely abroad, especially between China and the UK – echoing Beibei’s own heritage and where she is now based.
As part of East-West Arts Initiative, Beibei is actively discovering new markets for singers, by introducing western singers into China and ensuring Chinese performers are receiving exposure in the UK.
Now the organisation she set up is presenting Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ in Cadogan Hall on Friday 22 July, with Beibei joined by a cast of international singers trained at various UK conservatoires and accompanied by the London International Sinfonia. She said: “The upcoming production features over 40 young, talented international singers and instrumental musicians, stage settings and costumes designed by staff and alumni from London Central St Martin, and principal music coaching by a young conductor from the Royal Opera House. All in all, this is a fantastic combination for us as performers, as well as for the audience coming to experience it – I am so looking forward to it.”
Beibei will perform as Cio-Cio-San in the story of the Japanese Geisha girl, who is bought and then abandoned by an American naval lieutenant. The production is directed by Harry Burton and conducted by Peter Knapp, who has had a long experience of presenting opera on the stages of London concert halls, as well as in major theatres throughout the UK and France.
Beibei has been endorsed by Birmingham City University to remain in the UK following her education as part of the Government’s Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa programme. It allows international students to remain in the UK for up to two years to set-up and run a business upon graduation.
Beibei has completed the first year of the visa and the University has recently renewed this for an additional 12 months because of her success so far on the programme.
She will next apply for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa to continue growing her Initiative at the end of her two years as a graduate entrepreneur.
Richard Leighton, Enterprise Advisor, Birmingham City University said:
“Beibei is a charming individual, as well as inspiring other international students at Birmingham City University by highlighting that, on completing academic studies, you can remain in the UK to set-up and run an enterprise.”
“Her passion, desire and love for music is infectious and I really admire her ability to use performances to create intercultural relations that strengthen links and bonds between continents, nations and nationalities.
“She is a privilege to support and we are all honoured at the University to play a small part in her continued success.”
To date, East-West Arts Initiative has led and participated in a range of activities within The O2 – the world’s busiest music area – Trafalgar Square and Cadogan Hall.
“Birmingham Conservatoire is one of the most inspiring institutions I have had the pleasure to be a part of. It has the most friendly atmosphere and I made beautiful memories there. I appreciate Birmingham City University’s sincere support to allow me to explore my dream career in the UK.”
Prior to being based in the UK, Beibei completed a bachelor’s degree at Xinghai Conservatory of Music in China, before singing for three years as a soloist with the Shenzhen Musician Association, performing across China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
She continued with her passion for traditional Italian opera where she studied with soprano Maria Luisa Cioni and Nicoletta Zanini at La Scala in Milan.
After securing a scholarship to study at Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012, Beibei gained her Postgraduate Diploma in Solo Performance with distinction at the Royal Northern College of Music before studying for an Artist Diploma at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance under the tuition of Peter Knapp.
After running ‘Madama Butterfly’ in London, Beibei hopes to bring the show to Birmingham and Manchester.