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Zhang's Turandot fervor is a riddle for critics
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08:14, May 21, 2009

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Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou yesterday announced another grand project - but it is not a movie.

Instead, the creative team behind the 2008 Olympic Games' opening ceremony in Beijing returned to the Bird's Nest to release details of another spectacular show: A brand-new production of Turandot on Oct 6 and 7 at the iconic Olympic stadium.

Though not an opera director, Zhang has almost become a specialist on Turandot, if the number of productions is any guide. His debut dates back to 1997 in Florence, and he followed it a year later with a memorable show in the Forbidden City. In the following years, he has taken the show to South Korea, France, Germany and Spain.

Zhang, one of the most famous Chinese filmmakers in the world, has been quiet on the film front since Curse of the Golden Flower in 2006.

He has been busy with the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, the Impression Show series (that highlights scenic beauty in Lijiang and Hainan and other places), and also the huge parade at Tian'anmen Square in October to celebrate 60 years of New China.

But his forays outside the film world have met with some criticism.

Li Yaojun, a Beijing-based culture critic, believes Zhang no longer cares about artistic quality or what messages his films convey. "He cares more about the box office the Impression shows are totally commercial-oriented he is a brand promoter," Li said.

Also questioning the branching out was Raymond Zhou, a movie critic and a big opera fan who watched Zhang's Turandot in the Forbidden City 11 years ago.

He said he does not expect Zhang to present a "good" opera at the Bird's Nest.

"The point is, Zhang does not know music, he cannot get any inspiration from the music," said Zhou.

"I love many of Zhang's movies. His movies express his concepts and messages well, but in his shows, whether the Impression series or the opera, I just see him lump many things together."

But Zhang, who was not present at the Bird's Nest yesterday, said in a short video message that "Turandot in the Forbidden City was a big success and an unforgettable experience".

"Now 11 years later, we will use many advanced techniques and modern approaches to make a unique new edition. I hope the audience from all over the world enjoy the show."

Zhang is emulating famous directors in the West who have ventured into opera. Anthony Minghella, the late famous British movie director whose credits include The English Patient, directed Madame Butterfly at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2006; and Woody Allen directed Puccini's Gianni Schicchi for the Los Angeles Opera in 2008.

It was from the 1997 Turandot in Florence that Zhang started to try on other art genres. His 2001 ballet production Raise The Red Lantern, based on his movie of the same title, was criticized in China but won wide acclaim when it toured the US and Europe.

Source: China Daily



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