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Celine Dion set to shine on CNY night of stars

Singers rehearse for the 2013 CCTV Spring Festival Gala. The event has become an integral part of New Year celebrations. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Publication Date : 07-02-2013


The Canadian singer spent hours rehearsing a popular folksong to help China bring in a new year with a landmark gala performance


Celine Dion has spent hours rehearsing a popular folksong to help China bring in a new year with a landmark gala performance.

The global star, with a little help from her friends, has mastered the intricacies of "Jasmine Flower", or Mo Li Hua.

World-famous Chinese soprano Song Zuying was one of those friends. Dion will perform with Song at the 2013 CCTV Spring Festival Gala, which will be held on Saturday. It's the first time an international star has been invited to the event.

The singer will also sing her signature tune, "My Heart Will Go On", from the blockbuster film, Titanic.

The CCTV Spring Festival Gala has been held every year since 1983 and is broadcast live to the world on the Lunar New Year's Eve.

A billion people are expected to tune in for what has become a well-established tradition.

The gala attracts the world's largest TV audience for a show of its type.

For more than four hours, a variety of acts, including singing, acrobatics, magic and comedy sketches, will provide family entertainment.

However, the tradition is facing challenges as younger viewers are increasingly losing interest in the show. During the past few years, some of China's most popular entertainers, such as veteran comedian Zhao Benshan, have withdrawn from the show, and audiences have registered their disappointment.

Bringing international artists like Dion onto the stage is a possible way of winning back younger viewers.

The people responsible for Dion's gala appearance are veteran music producer Song Ke and renowned songwriter Gao Xiaosong.

The duo took charge of Evergrande Music in June, which was launched by the Evergrande Real Estate Group, one of the country's largest developers. This year, Evergrande Music contributed to CCTV's gala planning.

According to Song, who is Evergrande Music's managing director, Dion topped the list of international stars considered for the gala.

The 1997 film "Titanic saw My Heart Will Go On" become a global hit.

With the launch of the 3D version of Titanic in China in 2012, both Dion and the song enjoyed renewed fame.

"It proves how much the singer and the song have impressed Chinese audiences," says Song.

Gao, managing director for Evergrande Music's music department, agrees, saying that "My Heart Will Go On" is the most popular English karaoke song in China.

"If you ask a Chinese person to name two English songs they can sing, it will be 'My Heart Will Go On' and 'Happy Birthday'," he says.

To explore new possibilities for the star in China, CCTV also organised the diva's cooperation with soprano Song Zuying, who is also an internationally acclaimed singer.

She gave a solo concert, called What a Beautiful Jasmine, in the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2006.

Her album was nominated that year as the best Classical Crossover Album at the Grammy Awards. In 2008, she performed "The Flame of Love" with Spanish tenor Placido Domingo at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

"I believe audiences are curious and really looking forward to seeing the stars perform together," said Gao.

Gao also flew to Dion's studio in Los Vegas to help with rehearsals of the folk song.

"She cannot speak Chinese, but she is fluent in French and English which will help her with some of the pronunciations," he said.

Dion was enthusiastic to join the gala and reacquaint herself with China five years after her last visit.

Scheduling was the only fly in the ointment in bringing the star here, as she had to avoid date clashes with other commitments, including 80 shows in Las Vegas.

They started preparing the groundwork in September for the Canadian singer whose albums have sold more than 220 million copies around the world.

"Our time is very tight but luckily, she will be free during Spring Festival, and she is very interested in China" said Song Ke.

"We believe more international stars will come to China," he said.

To attract younger audiences, Evergrande Music also helped organize Spring Festival Gala Express, a talent show to select performers for the Gala.

"It's very interesting. Everybody complains about the gala, but they still watch it, and then they talk about how bad it was. We believe this year will be different," said Gao.


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