Placing Puccini in contemporary China

Updated: 2012-10-19 09:53

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Placing Puccini in contemporary China

The new version of La Boheme combines local creativity and a global vision. Provided to China Daily

The 14th China Shanghai International Arts Festival (CSIAF) kicked off on Thursday with a version of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme set in modern times.

It was produced by the Shanghai Grand Theater and the Salzburg Festival.

"The production is a successful combination of local creativity and global vision," vice-secretary general of CSIAF's organizing committee Chen Dong says. "The performance was a great success when it premiered at last July's Salzburg Festival."

Forty-six carefully selected performances will be presented during this year's CSIAF, which runs until Nov 20.

The program has been so popular with local audiences that more than half of all the tickets have already been sold. The opening project La Boheme sold out, so the Shanghai Grand Theater installed a few temporary aisle seats.

"This is a new form of international collaboration," the theater's general manager Zhang Zhe says.

"We've been involved in the whole production process and co-own the copyrights with the Salzburg Festival."

Music director Daniel Oren has worked with the Shanghai Opera House's orchestra and two casts - an international set and one from Shanghai - for the Shanghai performance.

The opening evening and Saturday's performance will star Fiorenza Cedolins, Jose Bros and Marco Caria. The Friday show will feature Chinese performers, including soprano Huang Wei, tenor Xue Haoyin and baritone Yang Xiaoyong.

Youth is the essence of La Boheme, Oren says. He was impressed with Chinese artists' passion and "persistent love for music" - one he says they hold "with all their heart".

A modern interpretation may agree more with Puccini's original concept of the opera, director Andreas Zimmermann says.

La Boheme was revolutionary in the late 1800s. Puccini wrote a tragic love story about struggling artists in Paris, rather than focusing on the aristocracy.

The ways of living and the problems depicted in La Boheme still exist, Zimmermann says.

Placing Puccini in contemporary China

But he had to find a different reason for Mimi the seamstress to come to Rodolfo the poet because no woman in today's world needs assistance when her candle blows out.

"We found a different excuse for Mimi to ask for help," the director says.

"But I can't tell you what, yet."

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