Beijing Olympics: Faking scandal over girl who 'sang' in opening ceremony, Tuesday August 12, 2008 Beijing
Aug 12 2008, 02:36 PM
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Left: Yang Peiyi; Right: Lin Miaoke
Beijing Olympics: Faking scandal over girl who 'sang' in opening ceremony
Chinese officials have admitted deceiving the public over another highlight of the Olympic opening ceremony: the picture-perfect schoolgirl who sang as the Chinese flag entered the stadium was performing to another girl's voice.
The girl in the red dress with the pigtails, called Lin Miaoke, 9, and from a Beijing primary school, has become a national sensation since Friday night, giving interviews to all the most popular newspapers.
But the show's musical designer felt forced to set the record straight. He gave an interview to Beijing radio saying the real singer was a seven-year-old girl who had won a gruelling competition to perform the anthem, a patriotic song called "Hymn to the Motherland".
At the last moment a member of the Chinese politburo who was watching a rehearsal pronounced that the winner, a girl called Yang Peiyi, might have a perfect voice but was unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth.
So, on the night, while a pre-recording of Yang Peiyi singing was played, Lin Miaoke, who has already featured in television advertisements, was seen but not heard.
"This was a last-minute question, a choice we had to make," the ceremony's musical designer, Chen Qigang, said. "Our rehearsals had already been vetted several times - they were all very strict. When we had the dress rehearsals, there were spectators from various divisions, including above all a member of the politburo who gave us his verdict: we had to make the swap."
Mr Chen's interview gave an extraordinary insight into the control exercised over the ceremony by the Games' political overseers, all to ensure the country was seen at its best.
Officials have already admitted that the pictures of giant firework footprints which marched across Beijing towards the stadium on Friday night were prerecorded, digitally enhanced and inserted into footage beamed across the world.
Mr Chen said the initial hopefuls to sing the anthem had been reduced to ten, and one, a ten-year-old, had originally been chosen for the quality of her voice. But she, too, had fallen by the wayside because she was not "cute" enough.
"We used her to sing in all the rehearsals," Mr Chen said. "But in the end the director thought her image was not the most appropriate, because she was a little too old. Regrettably, we had to let her go."
At that point Yang Peiyi stepped up to the plate.
"The main consideration was the national interest," he said. "The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all the members of the team."
That was until attention turned to Yang Peiyi's teeth. Nevertheless, Mr Chen thought the end result a perfect compromise.
"We have a responsibility to face the audience of the whole country, and to be open with this explanation," he said. "We should all understand it like this: it is a question of the national interest. It is a question of the image of our national music, our national culture.
"Especially at the entrance of our national flag, this is an extremely important, an extremely serious matter.
"So we made the choice. I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - after all, we have a perfect voice, a perfect image and a perfect show, in our team's view, all together."
One question remains: why was Lin Miaoke allowed to give interviews in which she lapped up the praise for her singing. Mr Chen said she might not have known that the words she was singing could not be heard. She had, in fact, only known she was going to perform at all 15 minutes beforehand.
Yang Peiyi is said to have reacted well to the disappointment. "I am proud to have been chosen to sing at all," she is reported to have said.
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Olympic Balladeer’s Voice Was Dubbed (Source: NY Times)
BEIJING — Pigtailed and smiling, Lin Miaoke, age 9, stood in a red dress and white shoes during last Friday’s Olympic opening ceremonies and performed “Ode to the Motherland” in what would become one of the evening’s most indelible images: a lone child, fireworks blazing overhead, singing a patriotic ballad before an estimated one billion viewers.
Except that she was not really singing.
Her proud father, Lin Hui, who only learned of her singing role 15 minutes before the ceremonies began, watched on television and noticed “that the voice was a little different from hers.” On Tuesday, Mr. Lin said in a telephone interview that he had assumed “the difference might be caused by the acoustics.”
Acoustics had nothing to do with it. Under pressure from the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party to find the perfect face and voice, the ceremony’s production team concluded the only solution was to use two girls instead of one. Miaoke, a third grader, was judged cute and appealing but “not suitable” as a singer. Another girl, Yang Peiyi, 7, was judged the best singer but not as cute. So when Miaoke opened her mouth to sing, the voice that was actually heard was a recording of Peiyi.
And it is unclear if Miaoke even knew.
“The reason was for the national interest,” explained Chen Qigang, general music designer of the opening ceremonies, who revealed the deception during a Sunday radio interview. “The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.”
China wants the Olympics as a stage to present a picture-perfect image to the outside world, and perfection was clearly the goal for the dazzling opening ceremonies. The filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who oversaw the production, has drawn international raves for a performance considered one of the most spectacular in Olympic history. But to achieve the spectacular, Mr. Zhang faked not only the song; organizers also have admitted that one early sequence of the stunning fireworks shown to television viewers was actually created using digitally enhanced computer graphics for “theatrical effect.”
Dubbing music during large outdoor performances is not unprecedented. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti, then 71, lip-synched an aria, a concession to his age and the cold weather. But the recording was still his voice, as is usually the case when performers lip-synch.
After last Friday’s performance, Mr. Zhang appeared at a news conference with Chinese reporters and praised Miaoke. “She’s very cute and sings quite well, too,” he said. Asked to name which section of the show he found most satisfying, he first mentioned Miaoke.
“I was moved every time we did a rehearsal on this, from the bottom of my heart,” he said, according to a transcript of the news conference.
Miaoke’s song was considered critical because it coincided with the arrival of the national flag inside the massive National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest. In his radio interview, Mr. Chen said that a member of the ruling Communist Party’s powerful Politburo, whom he did not identify, attended one of the last rehearsals, along with numerous other officials, and demanded that Miaoke’s voice “must change.”
By Tuesday, the Chinese media had already pounced on the story, instigating a national conversation that government censors were trying to mute by stripping away many, but not all, of the public comments posted online. The outrage was especially heated over the cold calculation used to appraise the girls.
“Please save the last bit of trueness in our children,” wrote one person using the online name Weirderhua. “They think Yang Peiyi’s smile is not cute enough? What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness! I hope the kids will not be hurt. This is not their fault.”
Another person added: “Children are innocent. Don’t contaminate their minds!”
Mr. Lin, Miaoke’s father, said his daughter had been under strict orders not to discuss plans for the performance. He got only the 15-minute notice about her role and was thrilled. He only later learned of the voice switch when he saw a video clip of the interview by the musical director, Mr. Chen.
In that interview on a program called “Beijing Music Radio,” Mr. Chen depicted the process of selecting a child singer as a tortured ordeal. He said about 10 children were chosen who “had a good image and who can sing well.” Initially, a 10-year-old girl was selected “whose voice was really good.” This girl held the role for most of the rehearsals — until Mr. Zhang decided she was too old.
Then, Mr. Chen said, the desired age of the singer was lowered and several young girls, including Miaoke and Peiyi, were taken to the Central People’s Radio Station in Beijing. “After the recording, we thought that Lin Miaoke’s voice was not very suitable,” Mr. Chen said. “Finally, we made the decision that the voice we would use was Yang Peiyi’s.”
But not her face. Photos posted online showed a happy girl with imperfect teeth, hardly an uncommon problem in China. “Everyone should understand this in this way,” Mr. Chen said. “This is in the national interest. It is the image of our national music, national culture, especially during the entrance of our national flag. This is an extremely important, extremely serious matter.”
He added, “I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi.”
On Monday, Peiyi appeared on China Central Television, or CCTV, the state network. “I’m O.K. with it,” she told her interviewer, even performing a song. “My voice was used in the performance. I think that’s enough.”
Miaoke’s father, a news photographer at a Chinese newspaper, was worried about how she would take the news. Since age 6, Miaoke has worked in television advertisements, even appearing with the country’s wildly popular hurdling champion, Liu Xiang. Her appearance in the opening ceremonies made her an instant celebrity in China, and her image was reproduced around the world.
“Here’s something I want to tell you,” Mr. Lin said he told his daughter. “The music director announced just now that it was not your voice when you were singing at the opening ceremony. The song was actually performed by you two girls.”
Mr. Lin said his daughter was not upset. He said that Miaoke and Peiyi were “good friends” and that Miaoke “doesn’t care who sang the song, as long as she performed.”
Then, he added: “I don’t care about this, either. The only thing I care about is that my daughter will not get hurt by this. She’ll understand when she grows up.”
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