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Call for domestic opera directors

06-06-2010 13:36 BJT

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Opera buffs in the capital are being treated with a series of classic shows these days from Carmen, La Traviata, to Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, which is to be staged soon at the National Center for the performing Arts in Beijing. All these operas are under the helm of invited directors from abroad. Behind the seeming prosperity of the opera industry in China, practitioners are starting to realize that there's an urgent need for domestic opera directors because of the fast development of opera in China.

Artists' polished singing and performances are combined with stunning stage designs and vivid props to help audiences appreciate the beauty of arias.

Henning Brockhaus, Opera Director, said, "I've seen many operas directed by Chinese. I think the voices of the performers are fine, but they usually stand still singing, with few moves and performances."

Deng Yijiang, Vice Director of National Center for the Performing Arts, said, "Through collaboration with foreign directors, we've realized that western opera directors focus not only on the singing. We hope their good examples incorporating both singing and performing skills as a coherent whole can be introduced to China. Only in this way can we vitalize our domestic operas."

Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread through the rest of Europe. It is acknowledged by many opera critics that the 18th and 19th centuries belong to composers; the 20th century is the era of singers and conductors; and the 21st century heralds the time of directors.

But unfortunately few domestic opera directors are capable of handling large scale productions with ease and grace. So far only the Central Opera House of China and the Shanghai Opera House has one professional opera director in each troupe.

Li Wei, Opera Director, said, "I think not everyone is capable of directing an opera. To be an opera director, you have to be a dramatist first, and secondly you have to understand the foreign language used in the opera. If you don't know French, it'll be a big joke directing 'Carmen' or 'Faust'. And thirdly, you need to understand the music."

A deep understanding of the performance, a foreign language and the music are key factors for an outstanding opera director. What's more, domestic opera directors need to broaden their views by watching and studying more good quality shows.

Wang Zujie, Head of China Opera Research Center, said,"Why are there so few domestic opera directors? Because they have few opportunities. Usually an opera show requires a high cost, with a comparably long production period. It is not something that can be made in a split second at any time."

Confronting the harsh environment, the industry practitioners are working hard in exploring new ways to cultivate a young crop of talents and enlarge the opera market.

And the results are evident. Domestically produced operas like "Xiao Erheis' Marriage" and "Gianni Schicchi", which was staged at the mini theater of the National Center for the Performing Arts, seem to find a niche.

"I think first of all we need to actively change our minds. We can try more mini operas and set practical goals, and make our shows more accessible to the general public. It does not necessarily mean that opera equals big productions." Said Li Wei.

Also joining the efforts is Peking University, which established an affiliated opera research institute in April in collaboration with the China Opera Research Center. Students will have the opportunity to be trained in a professional and scientific manner.

A rosy future for the domestic opera industry can be expected, as long as the industry's practitioners continue to work with their perseverance and a down-to-earth attitude.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source:

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