Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You Can Take Them Out Of China

...But You Cannot Take China Out Of Them

I went to the Opera tonight at the National Grand Theatre (also known as NCPA - National Centre for the Performing Art) or GuoJia Da JuYuan (国家大剧院- National/Big/Theater) to see Puccini’s La Boheme with a Chinese twist as the advert mentioned.

It was the first time I actually got to get into the Egg as it is familiarly nicknamed. The architecture already impressive from the outside doesn't disappoint once you enter (through a hallway that goes underneath the lake that surround the titanium accented glass dome). Cameras are not allowed inside so I couldn't take any pictures but here are some courtesy of the official website

The National Center of Performing Art is home to 3 major performance halls; the “Opera Hall” is used for operas, ballet and dances and seats 2,416, the “Music Hall” for Music concert seats 2,017 and the “Theater Hall” (where “La Bohème” was performed) is used for plays and the Beijing opera and has 1,040 seats.

The play started awkwardly with a small movie. The narrator (speaking Italian) in an airplane (thank you GrandChinaAir!) arrives in Beijing and is being driven in a Mercedes (ketching!) to 798, the Art district.(to explain the setting of the Opera since the decor was not the Parisian streets!) The play was in Italian with Chinese and English subtitles.

Two things happened that reminded us that we were indeed in China and not anywhere else in the world. First as we were waiting for the play to start (we were there 30 minutes early, thanks to a very non traffic jam ride by taxi), a couple of seat in front of us this Chinese guy had his feet (shoeless) up on the seat in front of him until one of the usher reminded him where he was (i.e. not in his living room!!) than in the middle of the first scene, first act... the orchestra had to stop because someone was speaking loudly (almost screaming) in the hallway for everyone to hear. He actually had to yell back at them to Sh@$! up!

About The National Grand Theater
The National Center for the Performing Arts is located in the central part of Beijing, adjacent to the Great Hall of the People and Tian'anmen Square. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.

The exterior of the theater is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake (16,000m3 of water – enough to fill 42 Olympic swimming pools). The titanium shell is broken by a glass curtain in north-south direction that gradually widens from top to bottom.

The dome measures 212 meters in east-west direction, 144 meters in north-south direction, and is 46 meters high and reached a depth of 32.5 m under the ground. The artificial lake surrounding the ellipsoid shell covers an area of 35,500 m2.. The total construction area is 217,500m2

The initial planned cost of the theatre was 2.688 billion Renminbi.[2] When the construction had completed, the total cost rose to more than ¥ 3.2 billion CNY

About “La Boheme”
La Bohème, is a classical four-act opera of the Italian opera master Puccini. Since its appearance in 1896, La Bohème has been famous for its magnificent musical ballad, its delicate emotion and its eternal true love, and has become an everlasting classic on the opera stage.

Puccini's opera La Bohème of NCPA's version is another original opera treasure after Turandot, Le Roi d'Ys and Madama Butterfly that the NCPA has composed with all its might. Chen Xinyi, the director, and Lv Jia, the famous oversea Chinese conductor, once more jointly perform Puccini's classic opera in a Chinese style. Chen Xinyi makes a bold conception and sets the story in contemporary artists' collecting center — Beijing 798 Art Zone, well known among Chinese people, and decodes this classic under a brand new concept. The famous foreign Chinese conductor Lv Jia will once more hold his baton. Chinese and Italian opera artists will jointly perform the classic of contemporary times.