The Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony last night was just spectacular and it jaw-dropping. And the music made the show.
I always look forward to the Olympics when humankind tries to look beyond politics and show its best. It was many years ago I visited Beijing and was impressed to see how much the city has grown as I watched on TV last night while the 35,000 fireworks were emblazoning the city. Of course we knew China was going to put on a good show for the world, but was surprised to see the extent of the grandeur and creativity involved. No expense was spared and the music, the artistry, effects, choreography and the technology were so impressive.
The four-hour opening ceremony to the 17 day event featured more than 15,000 performers including musicians, martial arts experts, and dancers performing before an audience of 91,000 in the gargantuan 'bird nest' stadium.
An army of 2,008 drummers pounded in formation the thunderous countdown to the Games. Very cool. They played on ceramic and bronze drums called "fou", which can be traced back to the Xia and Shang dynasties (2070BC-1046BC). The fou drum tops and sticks were illuminated, flashing to the beat of each of the 2008 drummers. Nice visual light images, such as countdown numbers and undulating waves of light.
Other highlights included 900 actors performing the traditional Pekin Opera, evolving "scroll" routines, and various skits recounting China's five millenia of history and invention. The goquin (gu cheng), a koto-like instrument with 3,000 years of history, was featured during the ceremony. The last number before the entrance of the athletes was British soprano Sarah Brightman (Phantom of the Opera) and Chinese singer Liu Huan in singing the Olympic theme song "You and Me" atop a large globe (with performers doing a weightless space walk circling the globe). The stunning climax was when Li Ning was tethered high above the crowd to run around the vertical upper wall of the stadium, sideways, before lighting the large Olympic torch. All with great music supporting them.
The musicianship was superb and the show was breathtaking. The music made the show as Oriental and Western genres did a perfect blend. The ancient Chinese musical instruments and musicals were wonderful (expect to see some of these instruments in an upcoming "World" library). It was great to experience an world-class extravaganza where unique music played such a vital role. Kudos to the musicians who composed and performed for the opening ceremony!
As chanted last night, the words of a famous Confusius greeting: "Friends have come from afar, how happy we are."