After eight months of renovation and addition of state-of-the-art equipment, Shanghai Grand Theater opens its new season on November 7 with a lavish performance of Verdi’s opera “Attila.”
The lesser-known opera, which Verdi considered one of his best, was the opening performance when the Grand Theater opened 15 years ago. This year is also the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth.
This production of “Attila” will be staged for the first time in Shanghai from November 7 to 10. It is a coproduction of the Shanghai Grand Theater, Palace of the Arts of Budapest, and the Shanghai Opera House.
The multi-venue theater, a landmark on People’s Square, opened in August 1998 and in the past 15 years, 8,387 performances were staged. More than 10 million tickets were sold.
The comprehensive multi-venue theater stages the best of opera, ballet, dance, drama and music of all kinds. The theater will continue to present a wide range of high-quality programs and promote music appreciation and knowledge of theater arts.
After the long suspension, the theater has developed an attractive program list to maintain its advantage among new theaters entering the market, says Zhang Zhe, the president of Shanghai Grand Theater.
“For the new season we decided on programs related to what Shanghai Grand Theater has presented in one way or another,” says Zhang. “We want to maintain our high-quality brand, and we don’t want to miss new programs.”
The interior public space has been greatly expanded and Euro III-standard technology is used. The premier venue now has an 8-by-10-meter outdoor screen for live performance broadcasts. Around 500 people can be seated outside; tickets will be required in case of very large crowds.
The most obvious change is the expanded public space, according to Zhang Xiaoding, vice president of the theater. The 1,500-square-meter ground floor provides program-related exhibitions, a gift shop and coffee shop.
Two staircases have been added, facilitating movement from the Central Hall to the ground floor. Restrooms have been added; heating and air-conditioning has been upgraded.
Worn seats and stage flooring have been replaced with the same materials to avoid changes in acoustics. All materials are environmentally friendly, theater officials say. As finishing-up continues, the theater is being ventilated to reduce any odor.
‘Attila’ relates to China
“We wanted to produce an opera related to China, but Verdi doesn’t have works like Puccini’s ‘Turandot’,” says Csaba Kael of the Palace of Arts in Budapest, who is also the director of “Attila.”
“Since legends suggest that the ancient Chinese drove the Huns west, and some of the Huns became the ancestors of Hungary, I think the story about the Huns’ fourth-century king Attila can be taken as a story related with China.”
“Attila” is one of Verdi’s lesser-known operas, compared with works staged in previous years, including “La Dame aux Camelias,” “Don Carlo,” “Othello” and “The Jester.”
“It is one of the few operas featuring bass in the leading role. It is hard to find a good bass singer; that’s why it is rarely staged, even overseas,” says Zhang the vice president of Shanghai Grand Theater, “The bass part of Attila is very distinguished.”
Attila will be sung by Italians Giacomo Prestia on the first two nights and Roberto Tagliavini on the following nights. An appropriate Chinese bass has not been identified.
Many programs in the new season are “old friends.” They include the Gurzenich Orchestra of Cologne and the Royal Ballet. Newcomers include the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Benjamin Millepied with his L.A. Dance Project.
In its efforts to promote music and educate the public, the theater will continue selling low-price tickets for popular stage programs, offering lectures on theatrical arts, and holding free open days when the public can tour the theater.