There's no business like show business, and the buzz is back in the industry
A public hungry for the performing arts after the drought of the coronavirus pandemic is streaming back to theater, concert and dance shows, revitalizing an industry that was down on its knees.
The current 38th Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, a feast of more than 40 music concerts and dance shows, highlights the comeback with vigorous demand for tickets.
"Tickets for many shows were sold out quickly, and the attendance rate is even higher than it was in 2019," said Chen Yingwu, founder of the BHC performing company. "The market is roaring back because public enthusiasm for wonderful cultural shows never fades."
The company brings Zhengzhou Song and Dance Theater's acclaimed performance "The Goddess of the Luo River" to the music festival on March 28 and 29.
Since February, Chen added, his company has staged around 200 performances nationwide, spanning traditional Chinese opera, music, dance and drama.
Zhengzhou Song and Dance Theater's acclaimed dance play "The Goddess of the Luo River" is a highlight of the 38th Shanghai Spring International Music Festival.Ti Gong
Major performance venues around the city report a similar surge in ticket-buying. The Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism reported that 931 performances are being staged this month, a 75 percent increase over the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.
Yu Jia, a manager at the Majestic Theater, told Shanghai Daily that the box office there has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Tickets for the music festival's 10 performances at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center are also selling briskly.
Similarly, Shanghai Grand Theater is enjoying a strong comeback after the long period of cancellations and ticket refunds. Currently, the seats for its dance performances and operas are full, drawing audiences from around China.
Zhang Xiaoding, general manager of Shanghai Grand Theater, said in a recent interview that more originally produced shows will be on the playbill in the future, reflecting the resurgence of domestic productions that flourished in the vacuum created by the absence of foreign productions during the pandemic.
For the current music festival, Shanghai Light Music Orchestra will present four concerts inspired by ancient Chinese mythology and classic movies and operas.
Dong Deping, director of Shanghai Light Music Orchestra, told Shanghai Daily that half of tickets available were sold within days.
"I am impressed by the robust recovery of the theater," he said. "We have been invited to perform almost every day in March, though it is traditionally not a peak period in the market."
Shanghai-based Zide Guqin Studio's Tang-style concert "What is Qin" was an eye-catching sensation of the music festival at Wanping Theater on March 19.
Performers, clad in costumes from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), enchanted audiences with innovative interpretations using Chinese traditional instruments such as the seven-string guqin, the lute-like pipa and the Chinese bamboo flute.
The music festival's Tang-style concert by performers from Zide Guqin Studio was a big success at Wanping Theater, highlighting the charm of traditional culture.Ti Gong
Among the audience were overseas students from Shanghai International Studies University.
Feruza Karieva from Uzbekistan said it was the first time she had seen a live performance of traditional instruments and music.
"It was perfect in lighting, costume and scores," Karieva said. "It was a great opportunity for me to see more of Chinese culture."
Chinese-Malaysian student Lam Chee Tong said some of the music reminded him of the magnificence of ancient Chinese city Chang'an, which has been featured in popular Chinese films. He said he also enjoyed the melancholy of the tune themed on "Li Sao" ("The Lament"), a masterpiece by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan (circa 340-278 BC).
Zide Guqin Studio's online video clips have taken the culture of traditional instruments and music worldwide, already viewed 200 million times by over 3 million netizens.
Zhu Liyue, a founder of the studio, told Shanghai Daily that the Chinese entertainment industry is quickly rebounding after the pandemic. This year, the group will give a dozen performances on tour and will later perform music from the opera "The Phantom of the Opera" with a Chinese folk music makeover.
The year's calendar for the performing arts extends all the way down to grassroots Shanghai.
Theaters and cultural venues in the Show Life performance zone based in Huangpu District will present over 10,000 performances in varied genres.
To facilitate the public appetite for performances, a booth has been set up on the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall to sell discounted, last-minute tickets. It is cooperating with major theaters and performing troupes of the city.
"I think it's a very good approach to make the performing arts more accessible and affordable," said 20-something white-collar worker Raymond Xu. "My friends and I are so glad to see that everything about the stage is returning to normal."