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Free shows bring high culture closer to public
2015-10-16
By Zhang Qian

During the 17th Shanghai International Arts Festival, which kicks of today, over 600 free public performances will be staged at venues across the city.

These events are part of the festival’s Art Space Series, which will turn local shopping malls, plazas, parks, green spaces and university campuses into venues for a variety of exciting performances and shows. Many of these will feature the very same groups and acts scheduled to perform in front of paying audiences throughout the festival.

The line-up of free events includes performances from the Coldstream Guards Band from Britain, Dresdner Kreuzchor from Germany, Silver Dance Company from Israel, the Russian Step Theater, as well as pianist Li Jian and erhu player Ma Xiaohui.

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The bulk of these performances are paid for by the city’s district governments and presented free of charge to local audiences as a way to promote art appreciation.

Audience members should note though that restrictions apply to some show. Reservations are required for certain popular events. What’s more, an opera program taking place along the Bund, while part of the Art Space Series, does require audience members to purchase tickets (see details below).

The Art Space Series grew out of the Day Day Performance Program, launched in Huangpu District over a decade ago. But with the growing profile of the city’s international art festival, the free outdoor program also grew to include performances across the city.

“This has helped us reach our goal of providing art to all residents,” says Liu Wenguo, the festival’s artistic director.

Each year during the festival, about 150,000 theater-goers purchase tickets to about 40 shows and performances at the city’s indoor venues, according to Liu.

In comparison, the Art Space Series is expected to reach over 4 million people.

“There is a huge difference between these numbers” says Liu. “Looking at attendance at these public events, it’s clear that we have built a broad platform for ordinary people to access top-quality art.”

Performers and artists also say they appreciate the opportunity to interact with regular folks.

“I always felt it my duty to help local people learn about our traditional music and art. It’s a great idea to extend the program from the theater to public spaces, where both artists and spectators can have fun communicating,” says Luo Xiaoci, vice president of the Shanghai Chinese Traditional Orchestra as well as an accomplished guzheng player.

Liu admits that the theater environment may provide a better audience experience, but open-air concerts and shows are an effective way to spread the refined arts.

“In the old times, there was a tradition of public performance in China,” says Liu. “To some extent, we are building on this tradition. We aren’t only focused on providing free entertainment, but also cultivating the market for live performances.”

Highlights of the Art Space Series

• 3D-Opera On The Bund

• Concert With Vadim Repin and Prague Symphony Orchestra

• Aupa Quartet Concert

• Estonian Piano Octet Concert

• “Returning Home — Fulfilling Dream” — Dialogue Between The Erhu And US Country Music


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