Anyone in the world with an Internet connection can watch the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Mozart and Mahler on Sunday at the Shanghai Grand Theater in Beijing, for free, live. In Philly, that means 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
The simulcast stream represents a cultural and political milestone for the Philadelphia Orchestra and China.
The Orchestra is currently on a three-week residency, playing concerts throughout China, Japan and Taiwan. This is the third trip of a five-year cultural exchange plan between the Orchestra and China.
While the Orchestra has streamed its concerts many times in the past, executive vice president Ryan Fleur says that, in China, internet streams had been officially restricted — not just from western music, but pretty much everything.
“In China, there’s no such thing as iTunes. There is not way to stream audio, to stream video. It’s been something that’s not allowed by the government,” said Fleur. “The government has recently loosened some restrictions, and has awarded a series of contracts to a variety of companies.”
One of those companies is the Xinhui Media Group, which has been awarded government contracts to both develop technology to stream content, and actually stream content. Xinhui will handle the technology for the Orchestra’s online performance at yunbomedia.com. Advanced registration is required.
“It’s not only the first time content can be streamed through China and the rest of the world, originating in China, but it’s the first time there is any western content that is being streamed. Let alone orchestral performance,” said Fleur.
It will not look or sound quite like the high-definition streams the Orchestra has done on its home turf. For most people in China, the primary way of accessing the Internet is through the cell phone, with a 2.5-inch screen. Fleur said the stream will be optimized to that level.