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Concert aims to eliminate borders through music

The International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC) staged a concert, featuring “The People’s Diva,” Renee Fleming, in Tokyo on June 18.

The Tokyo Global Concert was sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the U.S. Embassy and The Japan Times.

The concert featured American Renee Fleming, who is an acclaimed soprano and four-time Grammy Award winner. She has performed on a number of prestigious stages such as “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” in 2009, “The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee” for Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 and the Super Bowl in 2014.

The concert also featured IFAC Chairman Haruhisa Handa, a baritone, and Conal Coad, a bass from New Zealand, singing works by Mozart, George Gershwin and others.

“Renee and I share the same philosophy; music is entertainment and all we want is for the audience to be satisfied,” Handa said. “All we thought about was what kind of audience we would have and what songs would best entertain them.”

The concert was free of charge as the IFAC is committed to providing young Japanese musicians the opportunity to be inspired by global performers. About 5,800 people applied for tickets and the IFAC was able to accommodate 1,500 of them. The IFAC also invited young musicians and university music students.

The first portion of the concert began with Handa and Coad singing accompanied by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Italian Roberto Abbado.

The second portion was by guest of honor Renee Fleming, who sang in Italian, German, French and English. She was backed by the sane orchestra and also conducted by Abbado.

Fleming began with two Mozart pieces she said were close to her heart, performing “Nehmt meinen Dank, K. 383″ and “Porgi, amor from Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492.”

She sang three more songs before turning things over to the orchestra, which performed five classic works, including the “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Antonio Rossini. After the orchestra’s interlude, Fleming appeared again to perform “O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi,” by Giacomo Puccini and “Summertime from Porgy and Bess” by Gershwin.

Fleming’s performance was followed by an encore, in which the three sang “Furusato” (hometown) together.

To wrap up the concert, Fleming sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”

Handa met Fleming after being introduced to each other by their mutual friend and world-renowned singer Michael Bolton.

The IFAC will sponsor a music festival in New York next year, featuring Fleming as the main performer. Handa will co-chair the festival.

Handa and Fleming have another thing in common as they are both hold honorary doctorates from New York’s prestigious Juilliard performing arts school.

Handa, who also uses the pen names Toshu Fukami and Totoami, wishes to eliminate all discrimination in music and become a “borderless renaissance singer.” Handa is not only a vocalist, but also an educator. He is chancellor and a professor of international politics in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Cambodia.

The IFAC is a nonprofit organization established to promote social welfare activities through music and art events. After its foundation in 1996, the IFAC has enjoyed the support of many people. The Tokyo Global Concert program contained congratulatory messages for the concert from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe and other politicians.

The IFAC has also established IFAC-USA, IFAC-UK and IFAC-Australia, each of which is a registered charity organization in accordance with the laws of those countries.