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UPDATED: January 18, 2010 NO. 3 JANUARY 21, 2010
Art at Its Finest
The National Center for the Performing Arts has become a palace with a treasure trove of arts and performances in the past two years

After its first round of performances in June 2009, Jane Eyre kicked off its second round of performances from December 10 to 23 for the anniversary's celebration.

It is the first time Jane Eyre, a dramatic adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel of the same name, has made it to the stage in China. Its debut in June turned out to be a hit, of course, with all tickets sold out for all 10 performances.

Meanwhile, another new opera, produced by the NCPA, A Female Teacher in a Village, tells a story of a woman who follows her boyfriend to his small hometown, to become a primary school teacher. But after a time, the man leaves her for a big city and a more promising future. In the end, the woman stays behind, sacrificing her life to save her students during a flood.

The production was scripted by China's leading playwright Li Heng and led musically by Lu Jia, the acclaimed Shanghai-born conductor. "Although it still has a few flaws, the opera could be improved into a classical production," said Lu. "This is the first run anyway, and it is one of the few Chinese original operas that combines drama, music and characterizations so well."

Meanwhile, hi-tech settings are also used in the performance of the opera. A 14-meter-high, 50-meter-long screen surrounding the stage is put to good use, allowing vivid play of the production's multimedia effects. The mountains, grassland, clouds, storms and floods look so real that audience members almost feel as if they were in the village.

The multi-functional theater of the NCPA was put into action during the celebration week after its trial operation in October. It is now China's first small theater opera.

Goodbye Again, Cambridge, which tells a story among Chinese educated youth in the 1930s and was put on stage in 2001, showed up once more as part of the celebration, too.


KEEPING IN THE CAMERA: A visitor takes pictures at an exhibition held in the National Center for the Performing Arts (LUO XIAOGUANG) 

As the first small theater opera in China, Goodbye Again, Cambridge has won great acclaim among audiences, with the recognition of its simple roles of characters, clear relations, beautiful and emotional music and fresh, novel stage form.

This production enables the audience to both experience the charm of music, and feel the fine emotional linkage between different characters. Accompanied by beautiful melodies, famous poems like The Peach Blossom, Goodbye Again, Cambridge, originally created by Lin Whei-yin and Hsu Chih-mo, will be reproduced in a novel way, rendering anew the deep romance that has influenced concert-goers one generation after another.

The NCPA sets December 22 as the opening day every year when visitors can enjoy all the NCPA has to offer for free. At the gate of the NCPA, teachers from the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts familiarized the visitors with features of different facial masks of Peking Opera, and showed the whole process of facial mask making-ups.

In addition, visitors may also enjoy exhibitions and inspect the NCPA's bookstore.

"We have been trying to develop a new way of both getting profits and benefiting  more people," said Chen. "For each performance, we have prices of five to six different levels, with the lowest price under 100 yuan ($14)."

If there are people who come to the NCPA out of plain curiosity for the first time, said Chen, they will have enjoyed the beauty of opera, orchestra and ballet. Consequently, he added, they will come back again and again.

It might still be in its relative infancy, but the NCPA is well on its way to making itself a name synonymous with some of the best art in the world, said Chen.  


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