Grand Theater trumpets an awe-inspiring season
The Shanghai Grand Theater’s 2019-20 performance season will open with a performance of “Eugene Onegin,” arguably Tchaikovsky’s most famous opera.
“Eugene Onegin” is based on a novel written in verse by Russian poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin. It tells the story of a St Petersburg dandy who spurns the love of a young woman he meets. Years later, he comes across her again at a grand ball and realizes that he is in love with her. Married now, she spurns him.
The three-act opera will be presented by performers from Moscow’s Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre on September 11, 13 and 14.
The new Grand Theater season will be presenting 180 different productions in 500 performances. They range from opera, ballet, drama and musicals to traditional Chinese opera and a special series dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
The Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre was founded in 1941 when two companies directed by the legendary reformers of 20th-century theater — Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko — merged.
The theater troupe first visited China in 1954, when it brought “Eugene Onegin” and two ballet productions to Beijing. According to the theater, the latest version of “Eugene Onegin” is different from Stanislavski’s original work, but pays tribute to it.
Another outstanding opera on the season’s playbill will be Puccini’s “Turandot,” to be presented by the Shanghai Opera House on December 13-15. The performance features Chinese soprano He Hui in the title role.
“Turandot,” famous for the “Nessun Dorma” aria, is set in an ancient Chinese imperial court and tells the story of a beautiful but cruel princess who challenges her many suitors to answer three riddles on pain of death. None succeeds until a brave prince from another land correctly answers the riddles. The ice-cold princess refuses to marry him, and he then poses his own riddle to her.
He, now in her late 40s, was the first Chinese soprano to assume the title role in Verdi’s “Aida” in 2008. She was also known for singing the title role in Puccini’s opera “Tosca,” which was her major breakthrough in European opera houses.
Next April, married couple Svetlana Zakharova, a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, and violinist Vadim Repin will showcase their respective skills during performances of “Pas-de-deux for Toes and Fingers.”
Other dance performances on the new season’s playbill include the Monte Carlo Ballet’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and the Vienna State Ballet’s “Le Corsaire” and “Marie Antoinette.”
Shanghai Grand Theater’s own production of the Kunqu opera “Six Chapters of a Floating Life” will be performed again on November 29-30, following its debut last month.
The opera is based on a literary classic about Suzhou native Shen Fu, a scholar born in the 18th century, who earned his living as a civil servant and art dealer. In this intimate memoir, he recounts the romantic joys of his marriage to Yun, a beautiful, artistic girl who won his heart.
“Six Chapters of a Floating Life” won great acclaim when it debuted in July and will become part of the standing repertory of the Shanghai Grand Theater.
A concert of the Chinese genesis myth “Hero” by the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and the musical gala “The East is Red” will be staged from September 28 to October 1 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
Italian conductor Fabio Luisi will be on the podium with the Shanghai Opera House’s symphony orchestra and chorus at the Grand Theater for a 2020 New Year Concert, scheduled on December 30 and 31.
Luisi is general music director of the Zurich Opera, music director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and principal conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. He is due to become music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra next year.
On December 8, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, who is considered one of the best tenors currently on stage in the world, will appear at the Grand Theater.
The 46-year-old will be performing classic arias by Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti as part of his maiden Asian tour.
To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the Shanghai Grand Theater will host a series of concerts in May and June next year, treating audiences to all of Beethoven’s five piano concertos and nine symphonies.
According to Zhang Xiaoding, general manager of the Shanghai Grand Theater, the theater will open its own art gallery in the new season. Exhibits will include paintings and sculptures gifted or donated to the theater, as well as pictures and video documents of the theater’s history.
“The 21-year-old Shanghai Grand Theater is a role model in China’s performing arts,” said Zhang. “New theaters around the country have been learning from us in terms of operation and management.”
She said the theater will introduce a real-name ticket-selling mechanism for a few performances on a trial basis. Ticket purchasers will have to provide their identity card numbers, which will be printed onto the tickets. They can then enter the theater by showing both tickets and identity cards.
“The new mechanism aims to circumvent scalpers,” Zhang explained. “The theater will be the first in the nation to test this new mechanism. New technologies, like face recognition, may also be applied in the future.”