Stanley Whittingham, a 2019 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, speaks during an event marking the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera (CICO) of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton in Binghamton, the United States, on Oct. 18, 2019. (Xinhua)
NEW YORK, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- It was such a pleasant surprise for students and teachers of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton that Dr. Stanley Whittingham, a 2019 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, joined their celebration for the 10th anniversary of the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera (CICO) on Friday.
"A few years ago I got this tie, and they gave the same tie to (former U.S.) President Obama," said Whittingham, pointing out his tie was a gift from China, when beginning his congratulatory remarks at the event held by CICO Friday evening at Binghamton, about four hours drive north of New York City.
The distinguished professor at Binghamton University recalled his first visit to China 20 years ago and applauded China's unprecedented repaid development.
"I encourage you all to learn different cultures, learn different languages, and become part of the world community," Whittingham said with some wisdom for the audience.
"The CICO is a shining example of how internationalization makes American higher education stronger and richer," said Donald Nieman, CICO's board chair and Binghamton University's provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
Nieman proposed a toast to "a partnership that has grown from a seed planted ten years ago into a beautiful flowering tree that will continue to grow for many years to come."
Harvey Stenger, president of Binghamton University, also remarked on how Chinese opera is "an effective way of teaching Chinese language and culture."
And Yu Jiangang, director of international affairs from CICO's partner institution, the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts (NACTA), agreed.
"CICO is pioneering a unique approach to cultural exchanges and mutual learning," said Yu.
The entertainment portion of the evening was even more pleasantly surprising as CICO's current and former students including Carrie Feyerabend, Daniel McMonagle and Brandon Johnson, presented a performance of dazzling proportions.
What wowed the audience was that these young people of no Chinese heritage possess fluent Chinese communication skills, and they can perform Peking Opera excerpts with ease.
The night's celebration ended with a chamber orchestra entitled "Songs of Silk," a mix of Eastern and Western timbres, the expression of ancient Chinese poems through modern interpretation.
The four poems, chosen by Zu-yan Chen, CICO director and classical Chinese literature expert, reflected four historical figures who played active roles in the Sino-foreign exchanges of their day: Wang Zhaojun, Xuan Zang, Abe no Nakamaro and Matteo Ricci.
NACTA musician Shen Pengfei composed musical lines for these poems inspired by the Peking Opera genre and arranged the pieces for an ensemble made up of musicians from both Binghamton University and NACTA, using a unique blend of both Western and Eastern instruments.
Two Binghamton University vocalists sang the melodies in Chinese in a Western operatic style, giving the audience a truly distinctive audiovisual experience.