China’s two major opera houses are joining the ranks of distinguished institutions like the Met Opera and the Royal Opera House with the first recordings and screenings of their operas.
Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) recording of Puccini’s Turandot opened this month’s Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), while the Shanghai Jingju Company will screen the 3D opera adaptation of Farewell My Concubine at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles later this year.
The decisive push shows that China is as ambitious in the field of event cinema as it is in conventional films for cinema, despite the lack of tradition of screening ‘alternative content’ in cinemas.
Yesterday the BJIFF hosts the screening of NCPA Opera House’s Turandot, which has been localised and given a Beijing-setting but sung in Italian. The event was captured in high definition in partnership with Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and will also be shown at the upcoming 17th Shanghai Film Festival, which will have a special focus on opera movie screening.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the first screening of the event took place at the NCPA itself on Sunday 16 March, as part of the 2014 Opera Festival, where a special 6-meter-high and 16-meter-wide screen was erected on the stage for the HD projection, with the production crew, NCPA orchestra and choir members all present to see their work on the big screen.
The BJIFF screening took place at the Xidan Joy City Capital cinema, which has 290 seats and recorded an attendance well over 70%. Much like western operas shown in cinemas, the audiences clapped and cheered ‘Bravo!’, despite the opera not even being shown live.
Interviewed afterwards by Xinhua news, the audience members were overwhelmingly positive to the new experience.
“The film version of the stage version of the opera and there are still differences.” Audience Li Wei said, “the stage version of the opera actor observed facial expressions, and the movie screen actor expression, subtle emotional changes have been enlarged, more have impact.” In his view, the film more fully meet the opera opera lovers’ visual enjoyment. When Princess Turandot tears appear on the screen, kneeling in prayer picture viewer Hu Fang Yankuangshirun. “I’ve seen the opera before,” Turandot “, but there is no sound in the cinema today feeling good, feeling listening to music today play exceptionally moving,” she said.
As in US and UK, the price is a major factor for the popularity, with tickets for regular screenings in cinemas across China starting from today, costing just 30-50 yuan (USD $4.80-8.00).