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Long Yu and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s Recording of Aaron Zigman’s Émigré Released on CD this Summer

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06/21/2024

Hailed as a “musical celebration of compassion” (China Daily), Émigré is an oratorio in two acts with music by Aaron Zigman, libretto by Mark Campbell and additional lyrics by Brock Walsh. Co‑commissioned by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (SSO), its Music Director Long Yu and the New York Philharmonic, it was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon in Shanghai in November 2023. A combined force of 190 musicians includes tenors Matthew White and Arnold Livingston Geis, sopranos Meigui Zhang and Diana Newman, mezzo-soprano Huiling Zhu, and bass-baritones Shenyang and Andrew Dwan; members of the New York Philharmonic Chorus; the Lanzhou Concert Hall Choir; and the SSO conducted by Long Yu.

Released digitally in February, Émigré recently received a 2024 OPUS KLASSIK nomination for World Premiere Recording of the Year. It will be issued as a 2-CD album on 21 June 2024 to tie in with the UN’s World Refugee Day, which falls on 20 June each year. Videos of two of the oratorio’s numbers, filmed at the semi-staged US premiere at New York’s David Geffen Hall, are also being released – “In A Woman’s Hands” can be viewed on the DG YouTube channel now, and “Shanghai” follows on 21 June. The full performance is available on STAGE+. Various “deep dives” into the music and historical background of Émigré and the collaboration between the SSO and the New York Philharmonic – filmed in Shanghai – will also appear on STAGE+, and DG will share extracts from these on YouTube and its social media channels.

Émigré was inspired by China’s decision to open its borders to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi oppression in Europe. Between 1938 and 1941, Shanghai welcomed around 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and Poland. The cosmopolitan free port became a haven to many – including a number of outstanding musicians who joined the multinational ranks of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra – and Shanghai became known as “the Noah’s Ark of the Orient”.

It was the SSO’s current Music Director, Long Yu, who initiated the oratorio project. He approached Aaron Zigman, having previously collaborated with him on his piano concerto, Tango Manos, just one of the diverse works written for the concert hall by a composer known to millions for his film and TV soundtrack scores (The Notebook, Wakefield, Sex and the City). Zigman developed his initial scenario into a 90-minute oratorio with librettist and lyricist Mark Campbell, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music and a Grammy Award. Additional lyrics were contributed by songwriter Brock Walsh.

Set during the Second World War, and opening with a chorus comprising Jewish, Christian and Buddhist prayers for peace, Émigré charts the lives of two Jewish brothers who arrive in Shanghai after Kristallnacht (November 1938). When one falls in love with a Chinese girl, both families oppose the relationship. Ultimately, however, they realise that their shared humanity outweighs any cultural or political differences.

Émigré shows how people can come together in difficult times,” says Long Yu. “We all need to think about how we could connect with others. I’ve worked with musicians around the world without ever thinking about where they’re from. Music is our common language. It’s the best language to deliver a message of hope.”

Long Yu - Zigman: Émigré
ZIGMAN Émigré / Long Yu
Jun 28, 2024

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Long Yu and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s Recording  of Aaron Zigman’s Émigré Released on CD this Summer
Long Yu and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s Recording of Aaron Zigman’s Émigré Released on CD this Summer
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