“Classical music does not belong to the West”: an interview with soprano Lei Xu

What was your path to singing in Western opera?

I started singing seriously when I was 17. I had loved singing since I was a little girl, but I had never considered it seriously until I was in high school. I felt it was my destiny to be on stage and sing. That’s why I told my mother that I wanted to apply to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. I loved to sing pop songs before I went to Shanghai. There’s no tone-deafness in my family; everyone can sing in tune. My grandfather liked Chinese opera. My dad used to a be an amateur singer, and was a beautiful tenor when he was younger. His brother actually pursued a professional career. So my family was very supportive of my decision to be a performer and singer.

My interest in Western opera began with the education I had in my hometown. My mother used to say that if you wanted to sing, you should first learn how to sing like an opera singer and learn how to control your breath. My teacher could sing classically, and she showed me many recordings of great opera singers. I was really fascinated by Kiri Te Kanawa, Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, Mirella Freni: all the Golden Age legends. I was amazed by their sound and the emotion they could bring to the audience.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Lei Xu, published on the Asian Review of Books on July 21st, 2017. The full interview can be found here.