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'Song of Farewell' to make premiere

THE Chinese original opera "Song of Farewell" will make its world premiere at Shanghai Grand Theater in October.

Created and performed by Shanghai Opera House and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, this upcoming four-act opera is composed by Ye Xiaogang and conducted by Zhang Guoyong and Yu Long.

Recent original operas, such as "King of Chu" and "Xi Shi," signal that the art form is evolving.

"The development of Chinese opera can never be limited to representing Western classical works," says conductor Zhang, director of Shanghai Opera House. "Localization is the key to our original opera creations."

"Song of Farewell" is based on director Chen Kaige's award-winning film "Farewell My Concubine" (1993).

"Chinese operas are mostly based on historical stories or classic literature," Zhang says. "As this is a new art form to Chinese audiences, we need to make them feel familiar with the story first so that they can enjoy more in the opera."

A household story might be one way to attract Chinese to Western opera. Composer Ye says he would like to show a "real" opera to Chinese people.

Zhang thinks there is no shortage of talent but it takes time to develop.

"We have a lot of talented opera composers and artists, but the Chinese original operas are still immature, which takes a long time to develop," Zhang says. "We need more fine Chinese original opera works. Experts and audiences will give us feedback on what's good or not."

However, Western classic operas, especially from Italy, still set the standard.

The Italian opera, "La Boheme" by Teatro Regio Torino, was staged at Shanghai Grand Theater earlier this month.

This four-act opera work by Giacomo Puccini is based on "Scenes de la Vie de Boheme" by Henri Murger.

The world premiere was in 1896 in Turin.

"Since then it has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas internationally," says Qian Shijin, artistic director of Shanghai Grand Theater. "We have to accept the fact that operas of this style are still what audiences want to watch most."

In this performance, the Teatro Regio Torino brought its whole team of 220 people to Shanghai.

"It's the first time that we invited the complete team from Italy to perform," says Zhang Zhe, director of Shanghai Grand Theater. "They presented the original Italian version. This excited fans here."

In today's opera market in Shanghai, Western operas like "La Boheme" appeal to more overseas spectators while Chinese original operas generally attract more locals even though there are English subtitles.

Zhang says, however, that Chinese spectators, especially in Shanghai, are now more knowledgeable and have higher expectations.

"This is a good trend and shows our original operas have a bright future due to the people's taste level," Zhang says.


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