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Fledgling no more

Updated: 2012-12-27 14:52 By Lu Qianwen

The West has not only enjoyed a long period of economic dominance in the world, but have also been the epicenter for performing arts, with an educated and solidly developed audience base. Now, as with its economy, China is quickly catching up in the arena of artistic development and a thousand-year-long cultural and artistic heritage is being rejuvenated.

This coming December will mark the 5th anniversary of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. While still young compared with other time-honored peers, the NCPA is steadily emerging as an influential performance venue, educational center and developer of original productions.

As such, it has become both competitive and communicative with other famous centers such as the Kennedy Center in the US and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. For example, from Puccini's opera Toska to Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, Italian opera director Giancarlo Del Monaco has established his fame firmly in China through a long-term cooperation with NCPA. Now he is directing Wagner's three-scene Lohengrin, which will be presented next month at the NCPA as part of a series of events to mark its 5th anniversary.

Focus on high art

Situated in the heart of Beijing just west of Tiananmen Square, the massive iconic structure houses five unique performance spaces and occupies a total area of 217,500 square meters, nearly double that of the former world No.1 Kennedy Center.

Itself such an impressive and beautiful work of art, the architectural structure alone attracts many art troupes to its prestigious stages. But the NCPA must maintain certain standards that exclude some of those wanting to perform there.

"The NCPA only produces and welcomes high arts including music, operas, traditional Chinese operas, and dances," said Chen Ping, president of the NCPA. "We are focused on high art. For instance, we stage operas but not musicals, because the latter is part of popular culture that the market can digest very well."

But he added, there is a universal rule in all countries that high art needs to be fostered and in support of that effort, the Chinese government currently subsidies 25 percent of its budget.

Chen said that in the past five years various groups have come and tried to convince him to permit their activities to be held at the NCPA, but he had to turn them down. In one example, someone offered 2 million yuan ($320,000) to hold a beauty pageant.

"Two million yuan can't buy the NCPA brand," said Chen, "We insist on classic performing arts but never performances that merely entertain."

Now many world renowned ballet troupes and symphony orchestras have performed at the NCPA, and some of them such as the Kennedy Center's Emperor Group have formed a strategic cooperation relationship with the NCPA.

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