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UPDATED: July 24, 2009 NO. 30 JULY 30, 2009
Virtuoso's Delight
Beijing's first opera festival stokes interest in the performing art

LIVE SHOW: People enjoy a live concert being held at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) that was broadcast on a big screen at the Beijing Railway Station. The NCPA has placed screens in several busy Beijing districts to get more people interested in Western music (LUO XIAOGUANG)

June 18, 2009. The stage of the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA). A hunchbacked character stops his performance several times over the continuous waves of applause coming from the audience. At the end of the opera, he bows to acknowledge the enthusiastic praise, promising he will return next June.

The object of this acclaim is 67-year-old Leo Nucci from Italy, considered to be the world's best baritone. The performance marked his 430th rendition of the opera Rigoletto. Nucci, hailed as the greatest living interpreter of Giuseppe Verdi's operas, had come to Beijing to take part in the first Opera Festival held by the NCPA.

STOKING INTEREST: The National Center for the Performing Arts holds activities to help children enjoy classical music during the 2009 summer vacation (LUO XIAOGUANG)

Nucci and Rigoletto brought the opera festival to a climax. The 79-day event, held from April 16 to July 2, offered capital residents a feast of 13 operas performed by 10 opera companies and more than 2,000 artists.

"We are very proud to be able to present the first opera festival in China to introduce this wonderful art form to our Chinese audiences and let them enjoy this cultural heritage," said Dai Yuqiang, a famous tenor and an ambassador of opera selected to spread knowledge of the art for this festival.

New elements

New elements were added to classic operas during the NCPA festival, which included almost all top Chinese and foreign artists.

The seminal Puccini opera Tosca, which opened the festival, tells a story of love, politics, hatred and conspiracy. Painter Cavaradossi is arrested and his lover, Tosca, tries to save him but fails finally. In the end, Cavaradossi is killed and Tosca kills herself to follow her lover.

Though one of the most performed operas around the world, Tosca has not seen a Chinese stage in quite a while. So the NCPA invited famous Chinese and foreign artists to jointly create a new version of the opera as a gift to the Opera Festival of the NCPA.

Co-produced by the China Kunlun Cultural Development Foundation, the Music Channel of China Central Television (CCTV), the NCPA, and the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Tosca boasted an outstanding crew of designers, many of whom created the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Dai, excited at the prospects of the remade opera, played the hero, Cavaradossi.

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