China’s crackdown on Christianity is being expanded to include even classical works of music if their themes are Christian, such as Handel’s “Messiah” and Mozart’s “Requiem,” according to the London Telegraph.
The report said the Academy of Ancient Music, a leading orchestral and choral group in Britain, was invited to sing Handel’s “Messiah” at the Beijing International Music Festival this month.
While authorities are allowing the performance to go on, the report said, it will be “by invitation only,” a move effectively barring members of the public.
The report said the Sinfonica Orchestra di Roma also has cancelled plans to play Mozart’s Requiem in honor of the victims of the Sichuan earthquake and to raise money for survivors. Instead, the program will include smaller, non-religious works.
Stefano Palamidessi, the general manager for the Rome orchestra, told the newspaper he was instructed to drop Requiem.
An official with the Ministry of Culture told the newspaper, “It is not a black and white issue, and there is nothing written on paper or in the regulations. A smaller piece as part of a bigger program might be OK, but a big work like Mozart’s Requiem would definitely be out.”
Officials have explained the “ban” is an existing policy, even though the classics have been performed periodically as children studying music gain access to Western trends.
Even the China Philharmonic played the “Requiem” for the pope earlier this year during an appearance in Rome, the report said.
But accompanying the additional exposure to outside ideas has been an explosion of evangelical Christianity in China, with some ministry groups active there estimating churches are growing at a rate of 3,000 per day.
Some Chinese leaders see social benefits in the church growth while others view it as a threat to Communist Party control, the Telegraph said.