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A country at the opera

2013-10-18 15:36:15

(China Daily) By Raymond Zhou


"In the old days, only China National Opera House was allowed to do Western operas," explains Liu. "But now anyone can produce one, and the first choice is usually a Verdi work. It is simply more popular with the public." Compared with Wagner, for example. Though there is no data, empirical evidence shows that Chinese music fans would prefer Verdi over Wagner, but those who love Wagner tend to be intensely loyal, something akin to "religious fervor" in the words of music critic Tang Ruofu. Some experts explain that the Chinese singing tradition of "one singing followed by three others" is reminiscent of the structure in a typical Verdi aria and cabaletta. That and the hummable vocal lines have made Verdi much beloved by a wider swath of China's music-loving society.

For those who want to check out the scores, some of Verdi's manuscripts are on display in the China National Museum, or they can go to NCPA for its extravagant productions. So far, it has done La Traviata, Un Ballo, Otello, Nabucco, Rigoletto and, in concert form, Aida. "Nobody beats NCPA in China in the scale of a production," says Li Cheng, an opera critic. "But it is a giant standing on the shoulder of previous generations." One of these pioneers is Qian Shijin, who presented the China premieres of several Verdi works in Shanghai.

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