Giuseppe Verdi's three-act opera, Un Ballo in Maschera, a production by China's National Center for the Performing Arts, has opened the 2019 NCPA Opera Festival.
The headline opera is being staged in Beijing from April 10 to 14 and features the NCPA Orchestra and NCPA Chorus under the baton of Chinese conductor Lyu Jia.
It is the third Verdi opera to be produced by the NCPA after La Traviata and Rigoletto. The work, which premiered at the NCPA in 2012, is directed by Argentine director Hugo de Ana, who is also the set and costume designer.
Premiered in 1859 in Rome, Un Ballo in Maschera is Verdi's masterpiece based on the assassination of Swedish King Gustav III in 1792.
French-Tunisian tenor Amadi Lagha and Hong Kong tenor Warren Mok play the role of Gustav III, while Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva and Chinese soprano Sun Xiuwei play Amelia.
According to Zhao Jiachen, vice-president of the NCPA, the opera festival-which is now in its 11th year-will run from April 10 through Aug 4 and will showcase 38 performances of 11 productions, mostly from China.
A free one-day carnival on April 7 gave audiences the chance to watch a public rehearsal of Un Ballo in Maschera along with a number of other programs, including opera lectures aimed at younger audiences and a runway show featuring opera costumes.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China, the NCPA Opera Festival will stage 170 Days in Nanking, the first original opera produced by the Jiangsu Center for the Performing Arts. It revolves around the wartime diaries of John Rabe (1882-1950), a German businessman credited with saving thousands of lives during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45). On Dec 13, 1937, the Japanese army occupied the city of Nanjing, the provincial capital of Jiangsu and the then capital of China. For the next six weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese people were indiscriminately killed by Japanese troops in what was later to become known as the Nanjing Massacre.
Composed by Tang Jianping, the opera premiered in Nanjing on Dec 13, 2017, on the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre.
"There is a growing appetite for opera as an art form, despite the fact that it was imported to China from the West. Since the opening of the NCPA in 2007, we have been devoted to promoting opera among Chinese audiences and producing original operas, as well as staging Western classics," says Zhao. The NCPA produced its first opera, Giacomo Puccini's Turandot, in March 2008 and has staged around 60 operas to date, including 28 original works, adds Zhao.
The NCPA is due to stage its own production of Turandot from June 20 to 23.
Other highlights will see a coproduction by the NCPA and the Staatsoper Berlin of French composer Georges Bizet's opera, Les Pecheurs de Perles, which will be staged from May 15 to 19, featuring renowned German director Wim Wenders and soprano Olga Peretyatko. The NCPA's opera production of German-French composer Jacques Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, directed by Francesca Zambello, will be presented from July 10 to 14.
"The past decade has not only witnessed growing audience numbers for opera but also a rise in the number of talented young Chinese opera performers, such as singers and stage designers. I am also impressed that the NCPA continues to tell Chinese stories through the language of opera," says Chinese tenor Wang Hongwei, who will play the leading role, Abing, in the Chinese opera, Er Quan: The Story of Abing, produced by the Wuxi Song and Dance Drama Theater. It's based on the life story of Hua Yanjun, also known as Abing, a famous blind Chinese musician.
Wang will also play in the NCPA's Chinese opera, The Long March, which will close the NCPA Opera Festival from July 30 to Aug 4. It premiered in July 2016 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Red Army's epic military retreat across the country over two years, starting in 1934, to evade Kuomintang forces.
Apart from the performances at the NCPA, opera films will be screened at universities across Beijing and NCPA opera consultant Giuseppe Cuccia will give lectures.
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