Italy has a long and glorious history of opera, which continues to this day, thanks in no small part to its Italian children's choruses dedicated to nurturing young singing talent.
One of the most famous of these is the Italian Little Choir of Antoniano. Established in 1963, it currently has 61 members aged between 4 and 12 years old.
Through its history, the choir has recorded some 1,000 songs, toured most of Europe, and taken part in TV and radio broadcasts.
The choir also serves as a Good Will Ambassador for UNICEF.
They will be helping to ring in the New Year in Shanghai with six performances at Shanghai Children's Art Theatre.
"It is really difficult to bring them to China because, according to the laws in Italy, kids performing abroad must be accompanied by a parent, which means a huge cost and a huge number of people," Chen Rui from Children's Art Theatre told the Global Times.
"They are really great. We added an additional performance and it sold out so quickly," said Chen.
Recently, the Global Times interviewed the conductor of the chorus, Sabrina Simoni, who has been in the role for the last 20 years.
She spoke about the history of the choir and its upcoming Shanghai performances.
Members of the Italian Little Choir of Antoniano, which will perform in Shanghai Photos: Courtesy of the chorus
GT: How do you select the members of the chorus? What training do they undergo once enrolled?
SS: We select the kids through auditions to see whether their voices are unique, and whether they have a good sense of music and rhythm.
Training and learning are the two basic elements in the chorus. We have both boys and girls. We have people writing original songs for the chorus.
GT: Why did you choose Shanghai as your first stop in China? Have you prepared any surprises for the China tour?
SS: Shanghai is the city that I and the chorus members have always been looking forward to. I'm glad to have six performances in Shanghai.
We will give the kids and parents a huge surprise, but I can't spoil it. We'd be glad to perform in other cities in China in the future.
But this time we will only perform at Shanghai Children's Art Theatre.
GT: Can you introduce your upcoming performance in Shanghai? Many Chinese people know about you through the song "Forza Gesù." How was it created? Will it be staged this time?
SS: We will perform many original songs and many famous songs especially adapted for the chorus.
"Forza Gesù" is a very successful song in Zecchino d'Oro, an international children's song competition held in Italy every year.
We participate in Zecchino d'Oro every year. This year will be the 58th Zecchino d'Oro.
GT: You sing in Italian. Has it ever worried you that the audience can't understand the language?
SS: One thing that I can't be more certain about is that our music and the beautiful voices of the kids transcend the barrier of the language.
GT: At what time will the kids finally leave the chorus? What do they leave with? What will they do after that?
SS: They will leave at the age of 12. At a concert approaching the end of the year we will have a special ceremony. It is also a ceremony to welcome the newcomers to the chorus.
They will leave with the most precious memory of their lives and proceed with their study at schools.
For the whole five years, they have been learning music and living together.
When they have completed their mission, the kids, their parents and teachers won't spare any tears in saying goodbye.
Date: from December 31 to January 3, 2:30 pm, 7:30 pm
Venue: Shanghai Children's Art Theatre
Address: 800 Miaojiang Road 苗江路800号
Tickets: 80 yuan ($12.34) to 480 yuan
Call 6366-0000 for details