Classic 'Swan Lake' lights up Shanghai Grand Theater again

Ma Yue
The full resumption of theater openings encountered a minor setback. But for local performing troupes in Shanghai, there will be more stage opportunities.
Ma Yue
SSI ļʱ

The full resumption of theater openings may have encountered a minor setback, after Beijing upgraded its emergency response to the novel coronavirus this week, but for local performing troupes in Shanghai it means more stage opportunities.

Shanghai Grand Theater became the city’s latest major venue to resume operation this week, staging Shanghai Ballet’s “Swan Lake” on Thursday and yesterday. The performances followed the audience limitation guidelines, and made only 30 percent of the seats available to help audiences to practice safe social distancing.

“We were initially informed by the local authorities we would loosen up to 50 percent of audience capacity this month,” Zhang Xiaoding, general manager of Shanghai Grand Theater, told Shanghai Daily. “However, with Beijing upgrading the emergency response, theaters might need to wait a little longer for further notice.”

Classic 'Swan Lake' lights up Shanghai Grand Theater again
Ti Gong

Shanghai Grand Theater chose “Swan Lake” as the first performance for its reopening.

With most international performances canceled or postponed due to border control policies, Zhang said the Grand Theater has been frequently communicating with domestic troupes for performance rescheduled.

“It’s not easy to invite domestic troupes either,” said Zhang. “Troupes usually have a scale of more than 40 people and might have a safety concern when doing inter-province or inter-city travel. Also, it’s impossible to have the cost of organizing performances covered under the 30 percent audience capacity limitation.”

Inviting local troupes to the stage has become the best option under the current circumstances.

The theater’s latest schedule revealed Shanghai Opera House will present a revised version of the original opera “Li Dazhao” from today till July 1, while the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra will stage a Chinese music concert on July 5.

Classic 'Swan Lake' lights up Shanghai Grand Theater again
Ma Yue / SHINE

Shanghai Grand Theater has become the latest venue to resume operation.

The Grand Theater initially planned to present a Chinese version of the musical “Jekyll & Hyde” in July. However, there has been uncertainty, as the foreign artistic directors of the musical could only make long-distance communication with the performing crew, affecting the quality of rehearsals.

Zhang said the theater is not giving up yet on inviting international artists and troupes to Shanghai this year.

“We have been seeking help from the culture and tourism authorities. We hope they can open a green channel for foreign artists and troupes to enter the country, which will be a boost to our confidence in a full resumption,” she said.
“The foreign troupes don’t want to miss the Chinese audience either. We are already rescheduling some of their performances for 2022, as there might be uncertainty in 2021 too.”

Shanghai Grand Theater has a reason to name “Swan Lake” as the first performance after work resumption. When the venue was completed in 1998, the National Ballet of China brought their “Swan Lake” to Shanghai as the opening show of the landmark theater.

Classic 'Swan Lake' lights up Shanghai Grand Theater again
Ti Gong

A “swan sea” is staged in the performance presented by Shanghai Ballet.

This version presented by Shanghai Ballet was a work by British choreographer Derek Deane, which premiered in 2015. Deane created a “swan sea” by having 48 dancers perform on stage at the same time. It has been performed almost 150 times on Shanghai Ballet’s national and international tours in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Australia and the United States.

Zhang Wenhong, leader of the expert team for coronavirus treatment in Shanghai, was among the guests who were invited to the Grand Theater for the preview performance of “Swan Lake” on Wednesday.

“It’s a pity that only 30 percent of the audience could enjoy the performance under the capacity limitation,” said Zhang.

“We all know that there has been some relapse in the development of the virus recently. What remains unchanged is our effort in the fight against the virus.

“The resumption of theaters is a positive sign. I’m not an art expert, but I know that life becomes pale without art. I encourage citizens to continue to cultivate hygienic habits, wash hands often and wear masks in public places, so that we can get normal life back, including artistic performances.”

Classic 'Swan Lake' lights up Shanghai Grand Theater again
Ma Yue / SHINE

Zhang Wenhong, leader of the expert team for coronavirus treatment in Shanghai, encourages citizens to continue to cultivate hygienic habits.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s upgraded emergency response led to SAIC Shanghai Culture Square postponing three performances. The affected performances are: HD screening of Hong Kong theater director Edward Lam’s “Design for Living” (June 20); famed theater director Meng Jinghui’s first musical show “The Murder of Hanging Garden” (July 4 and 5); and an original musical “West Chamber” (July 15 and 16).

A statement by the Culture Square announced the postponed performances involved personnel or stage equipment from Beijing. The decision was in obedience to the anti-coronavirus requirements.

“The fight against the coronavirus is the only priority,” the statement said. “We promise to reschedule the performances as soon as the epidemic is under control again. Please give theaters and normal life more patience.”

Another two performances presented by local troupes have been given the green light.

Shanghai Ballet’s “The Last Mission of Marco Polo” will be staged on June 26 and 27. Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe’s “Battle of Shanghai,” the opening performance of last year’s China Shanghai International Arts Festival, will make a return to the Culture Square on July 1 and 2.

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