Some people think the reason for the slow development of opera in China is because this art form has roots in the West and cannot be understood by Chinese. To this, Zhang Jianyi, a famous Chinese tenor, said on his blog, "There are other forms also coming from the West, such as ballet and the symphony, which have developed much faster than opera. The China Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 2000, has already become one of the top 10 in the world."
He said the deficiency of investment in opera is one of the important reasons for the slow development.
Yao Hong, a famous opera singer, agreed. "We have problems in financing," Yao said to music magazine Symphony. "If we want to rehearse a new show, the stage setting usually needs two or three days. But the rent of the performance halls is so expensive that no one wants to invest their money in it. It's not a profitable art."
Liao Changyong, a famous baritone in China, said a shortage of talent is another problem the art form faces. More and more students are beginning to learn vocal music, but few know about conducting or artistic directing.
"Even for the vocal music, they learn more about singing skills rather than the culture and background of the opera's story. To have a beautiful voice is just one step of being a good opera performer," said Liao.
Jin Man, head of the Opera Academy of Peking University, claimed that the younger generation of opera composers and musicians have borrowed heavily from Western styles but not focused on folk music. While some composers tried to find inspiration from the country's many folk ballads, the mixture tends to be just superficial adaptations.
The stereotype among the public may be the third problem. Because opera is a Western art and usually performed in foreign languages, many people think of it as a high art that is hard to understand and appreciate. Yao said that idea is silly.
"The idea that only professionals can understand opera is wrong. It's just like pop songs," Yao said. "We can't say that those who listen to pop songs are experts in pop music. There are many melodious songs and beautiful stories in opera, and the emotions in it are universal. So I believe opera can touch the soul of our Chinese audiences, no matter how much they know about it."
"We will strive for more government funds and investment, to recruit more professionals to form an integrated team from performance to production and to set ticket prices at various levels to meet different audiences' needs," said Chen Ping, head of the NCPA.
The feedback of this opera festival was good with the average attendance reaching 88 percent. Chen felt gratified for this. He said he will continue his efforts to promote opera in China, and if conditions permit, he will work to hold the opera festival every year.
"We are different from other theaters. The NCPA will commit itself to creating original Chinese operas and promoting the development of this art form in China. The 2009 NCPA Opera Festival is just the beginning of popularizing opera culture and knowledge in China," Chen told Global Times.
The NCPA has produced Turandot, The King, Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Red Cliff and five other operas since 2007 and says it aims to introduce and produce five to six operas every year, as well as to host the annual festival. According to Chen, the NCPA hopes that the festival and its Chinese and Western productions will help to stimulate greater awareness of and interest in opera, which will help lay the foundation for a more robust Chinese opera community.
"We are exploring ways to promote the development of original Chinese operas. Our production Xi Shi will be on stage this autumn. The story about an ancient Chinese beauty will feature a Western singing style. Later we'll make an attempt to produce folk operas, with our Countryside Female Teacher scheduled for later in the year," said Chen.