In Eine florentinische Tragodie (A Florentine Tragedy), an aging merchant discovers his wife with her young lover—and kills him. This macho act rekindles their passion and they reconcile. Based on an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde, the opera, by Alexander von Zemlinsky, will be the closing performance the Macao Orchestra’s 2016-17 season. Its themes of desire, narcissism, and the Darwinian survival of the fittest are entirely relevant to self-obsessed contemporary culture, both in the east and the west.


Maestro Lü Jia (Photo: Courtesy of Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government)

Historically, Macau was the centre point for cultural exchange between Europe, China and the whole of Asia. And the Macao Orchestra’s music director and principal conductor Lü Jia has inherited this fusion of artistic traditions.

Born into a musical family in Shanghai, Lü Jia began studying piano and cello at a very young age. He later studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and Germany’s Berlin University of the Arts. Since then, he has conducted thousands of concerts and operas in Europe and the Americas and has cooperated with more than 100 opera houses and orchestras. He has also worked with major orchestras in Germany, the US, Italy, Norway, France, Sweden, Finland, Australia, the UK and Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Along the way, he received numerous awards and released dozens of records.


Lü Jia conducting the Macao Orchestra (Photo: Courtesy of Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government)

Since he began his tenure the Macao Orchestra in 2008, Lü Jia has, in essence, become the city’s cultural ambassador, propelling the orchestra to notable new heights with meticulous training, a refined arrangement of programme repertoires and a selection of acclaimed guest artists, as well as spearheading collaborations between the Macao Orchestra with other world famous orchestras,

When did your interest in music arise?
I was born into an artistic family and inherited the musical gene from my parents. At the age of ten, I was interested in all kinds of musical instruments and finally chose to begin with the piano and cello.


Lü Jia (Photo: Carol Kwok)

Coordinating the output of dozens of musicians, the chorus and soloists must be a challenge. How do you work with them as a team?
The origin and the professionalism of the musicians and the absolute control of conductor are the basic points which we need to work with.

How exactly do you communicate your ideas about a work? Let us take Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie, Op. 16 as an example.
The story of this opera is already is amazingly dramatic. My approach is to read the score, find the right tempi and character, and complete the idea of the composer’s orchestration, especially its huge aural contrast.


Photo: Courtesy of Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government

Do you find some of the players or singers try to dominate the others?
The only thing that dominates is the music itself, any interpretation is based on the score, which, of course, at times allows for the players or singers character and natural talent to be heard.

How do you inspire a sense of esprit de corps?
By finding the beauty and the spirit of the music.


Lü Jia (Photo: Carol Kwok)

Is serving the composer the driving force for the performers? How do you see your role?
The composer’s score is like a car with the conductor as its driver. The conductor must discover the car’s character and drive it with spirit and soul. 

When communicating with musicians, does the technical language of music lend itself to motivating them? Or is an emotional approach more useful?
The orchestral players are professionals. To motivate them to perform at their best depends on the conductor’s interpretation of the work, his dominance and control and his charisma.


The Macao Orchestra (Photo: Courtesy of Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government)

How much individualism can orchestral players afford? How do you find the right balance between individual performance and team performance?
For an orchestra, discipline comes first. Individualism can be expressed in the solo part, or by some principle players but it must never out of balance with the orchestra.

What do members of the orchestra look for when they glance up from the music to watch you?
They might look for tempo, music or a magic moment. It’s more important to understand my thoughts.


Lü Jia (Photo: Carol Kwok)

You joined the Macao Orchestra in 2008. What led you to accept the invitation?
I joined the Macao Orchestra for three reasons: First, the government really wanted a first class orchestra; second, Macau is a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese culture; third, after living in Italy for more than 20 years I was struck by the Mediterranean atmosphere.

What’s your ultimate goal as a conductor?
My dream has two faces: First, to combine fantasy, magic and energy with the best music, and second, through my work, to help people, especially the young generation, to understand music's beauty and importance.

July 29
2016-17 Season Closing Concert - Eine florentinische Tragodie  
Macao Cultural Centre, Grand Auditorium, Avenida Xian Xing Hai, Nape

+853 2855 5555,

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Tags: Macao Cultural Centre, Classical Music Macau, Live Concerts Macau, Macao Orchestra, Arts And Culture Macau, Lü Jia