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This evening, Taichung steps into international limelight: 20,000 citizens hear a 'Voice kissed by God'

Words by Zhong-You Chao Pictures by Ke-Ming Zhu
Translated by Cara Steenstra

Luciano Pavarotti held his farewell concert in Taichung on Dec. 14, when his rich vocals and passionate Italian flair lit up the city's night skies and reverberated in the hearts of Taichung residents. This was Pavarotti's second visit to Taichung after a 15-year absence, and he looked as great as he did before. One of the world's greatest tenors chose Taichung to be the last stop of his farewell world tour in Asia, in a decision that surprised both Japan and Korea, and put Taichung city into the international limelight. On Dec. 14, fans from Taiwan and around the world gathered at the Taichung Stadium to listen to his beautiful voice, helping establish Taichung once again as Taiwan's most international cultural city.

Evening temperatures that dropped to only about 15 degrees Celsius with a cold winds did not stop 20,000 fans from cramming into the stadium, together with many celebrities from the political, entertainment and art world. Like pilgrims, people came from all over the country to hear for the last time this "voice that has been kissed by God". Although it rained lightly at the start of the concert, the audience was entranced once Pavarotti began to sing, his beautiful voice and his unpretentious Italian style drawing exclamations of "bravo!" from listeners.

Musical director Leone Magiera and his piano accompanied the first half, with Pavarotti starting with three Italian folk ballads. After each song, he thanked his fans for their non-stop applause. There was not a single dull moment in this excellent concert and, by its second half, Pavarotti's vocals had completely warmed up as he performed Aria (Recondita Armonia to E lucevan le stelle) from Puccini's opera Tosca.

His passionate performance led to continuous audience calls for encores, which he obliged with renditions of his famous Italian folk songs. An unified gasp went up from the audience as the orchestra began to play "O Sole Mio". Combined with the gorgeous stage lighting, this well-known song warmed and touched with its simple charm. Seeing the listeners waving their concert programs, Pavarotti spontanously raised his arms and began conducting, guiding the audience to join in his rendition of the famous duet Brindisi of La Traviata, bringing the concert to a final climax.
"It is truly moving to have a mayor who works so hard at raising the cultural standards of a city," said Commonwealth Publishing Group founder, Professor Charles HC Kao, who traveled south to Taichung for the concert.

Even after listening to the encores, Professor Kao was still emotional about the experience and said that city and county mayors should try to improve the lives of people with non-political activities. Taichung city succeeded in this endeavour, overcoming many difficulties to provide a truly memorable cultural experience for all of Taiwan.

According to Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu, being able to invite Pavarotti means that Taichung city has already gained a certain fame internationally for cultural development. From a cultural perspective, Mayor Hu believes that Taichung has truly become a cultural city in the last few years, making him well-known as the "Cultural Mayor" to the media and citizens. Specifically, the average number of times that Taichung city residents have participated in cultural or artistic activities each year has risen from 4.1 to 19.5 times. Taichung city tops this category within Taiwan, and is also ahead of the pack within the Asia-Pacific region.

Mayor Hu is also very optimistic about the future cultural development of his city. The Taichung City Outdoor Amphitheater, designed to seat up to 15,000 people, is nearing completion, with a "Taiwanese Performer Arts Festival" planned after its opening. A variety of artists, including May Day, Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company and YoYo Ma, have already expressed interest in performing at the new amphitheater. Mayor Hu notes that the architectural design has been finalized for the Metropolitan Opera House, which is expected to be completed by the 2009. With soon-to-be-completed high-speed railway connecting Taichung to all culture and art lovers in Taiwan, the city's performance culture is bound to grow even richer, as it evolves into a creative, energetic cultural metropolis.

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