Fashionable Duet: Q&A with “The Chinese Fairy Coloratura Soprano”

Vivienne Hu, Photographed by Vital Agibalow

New York Fashion Week is known for many things—a Chinese opera soprano is not one of them. But this past September, couturier Vivienne Hu debuted her spring summer 2020 collection with an unlikely musical ensemble: American vocalist Elle Varner and Chinese “Fairy Coloratura Soprano” Chang Sisi.

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Performing Varner’s “Only Wanna Give It To You,” the duet rattled NYC’s Spring Studios and stood out as one of the highlights from this year’s runway shows.

I was honored to speak with Chang to hear more about her journey and this milestone in the singer’s career.

What originally drew you to opera? How long have you been a professional singer? 

I always loved singing. I started professional training at the age of 15. At that time, I was exposed to coloratura. When I was around 20, I started to perform in front of a broader audience and collect awards from numerous music festivals. Shortly after, my composer started to write me a lot of coloratura pieces, and people started to associate me with my nickname, ”The Fairy Coloratura Soprano.”

When I was 24, I became the youngest artist to hold a solo concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in China. That same year I was appointed as the youngest vice-chairman of the Shandong Province Musician Association.

Incredible! Tell me about your experience singing at the Vivienne Hu NYFW show. How did that happen? Were you nervous? Excited? How was the performance? 

It was a wonderful experience. It was my honor to perform at Vivienne’s show, and I was very excited when she proposed a duet between Elle and me. It was a creative move. Although I am a classical singer, I’m also fascinated by pop music, and I do take time to train myself to be more versatile.

Our collaboration went extremely well. I am confident about my skills and my voice; I could feel all the audience’s eyes on me when I sang the first note. I greatly appreciated the opportunity. Despite the fact that I only had five days to learn the song and I spent most of the time learning the lyrics of the other two songs, I enjoyed this collaboration and I deem it a successful one.

Was this your first Fashion Week experience?

No, I have actually performed at another show and received a lot of positive feedback from the attending media. “Xuanjin,” the song I performed during Vivienne’s show, is one of my favorite pieces. “Xuan” in Chinese means dazzling. I find this a perfect description of the coloratura used in this song. “Jing” denotes a state of peacefulness and corresponds to the chanting part in this song.

Where are you currently performing? What’s next for you? 

I have upcoming performances at international movie festivals in Macau and South Korea. This year, I will also participate in a concert with my mentor and friends in Canada.

Do you have any advice for readers out there who might be trying to pursue their own dreams, opera or otherwise? 

Keep learning. As an old adage goes, “Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” A lot of effort goes into achieving any goals; I always aim to be a better self through consistent learning and practice.

By: Brady Goodwin-Williams

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