Opera-loving Jiang becomes first soloist
The first solo singer to take to the stage of the National Grand Theatre was not an opera singer, but former president Jiang Zemin .
When Mr Jiang, an opera lover, visited the theatre on Friday, he sang parts of a western opera and a Peking opera for theatre staff. 'Mr Jiang was very happy and satisfied with the theatre and sang a few songs during the visit,' a source said.
The source said the former president had given staff instructions on security issues but had provided no advice on programming or which opera should be chosen for the official opening at the year's end.
Mr Jiang is a competent amateur flautist with a penchant for Chinese and western opera, especially Verdi. He invited the tenors - Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo - to lunch after their concert in the courtyard of the Forbidden City in 2001. During the lunch he sang O Sole Mio with Pavarotti, who died early this month at the age of 71.
Mr Jiang is said to have been a strong backer of the controversial theatre project during his presidency, from 1989 to 2003.