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Verdi the high note for opera fans

By Li Anlan (Shanghai Daily)

09:10, January 25, 2013

Western opera is still very new and Shanghai aims to cultivate a taste for it, staging co-productions with Italian opera houses and unveiling a season of Verdi, and some Wagner. Li Anlan reports.

Around the world, this will be a year of Wagner and Verdi who were both born 200 years ago in 1813, and Western opera lovers in Shanghai will get an earful.

Operas, opera concerts and excerpts from Verdi, as well as Wagner, will be performed in the city, when the opera season begins in September.

The emphasis will be on Verdi and other Italian composers such as Puccini.

For Chinese music lovers, Verdi is far better known and more popular than ponderous Wagner, whose "Ring Cycle" can take 16 hours to perform over four days. The Italian stories are more accessible and romantic, the music lighter and the arias more memorable for them.

Among Italian operas, Verdi's "La Traviata,' "Il Trovatore," "Rigoletto" and "Aida" are famous, as well as Puccini's "La Boheme." Opera concerts, without full operatic staging, and excerpts are popular.

Earlier this month, the Shanghai Oriental Symphony Orchestra staged "La Traviata," with a cast of both Chinese singers and European guest artists.

"The Chinese pay attention to the stories, and Verdi's operas feel relatively close," says Tao Xin, a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. "Some plots reflect the fight for freedom and Verdi also paid attention to disadvantaged groups."

Verdi was one of the earliest composers to insist on matching plots and singing talents. He worked closely with librettists and made sure the music, drama and characters worked together.

On Thursday, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center announced the opening performances of its 2013-14 season starting in September. The early announcement is expected to attract a larger audience and allow people to plan ahead.

On September 6, a selection conducted by Luca Verdone will feature Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci."

On September 7, a celebration concert of Verdi's selected works, including excerpts and arias from "Rigoletto," "Il Trovatore," "Aida" and "Un Ballo in Maschera" ("The Masked Ball") will be staged.

Both concerts are cooperations between the Shanghai Oriental Art Center and Italy's Teatro Massimo Bellini in Sicily. They will feature all-Italian casts, including tenors Marcello Giordani and Rubens Pelizzari, sopranos Giuseppina Piunti and Cellia Costea, baritone Silvio Zanon, and mezzo soprano Gabriella Colecchia.

Coproductions are becoming a trend and some opera productions this year will be staged in both Shanghai and in Europe.

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