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Chinese opera at home in Italy

By Marzia De Giuli, Song Jian (Xinhua)    09:29, July 17, 2015

MILAN, Italy, July 16 -- An ancient Chinese story performed by Chinese artists influenced by the Italian opera style at an historic theater here was a fruitful endeavor, judging from the warm applause and enthusiastic audience feedback.

"I truly liked it," Italian opera buff Antonella Palumbo told Xinhua on Wednesday night after watching The Grand Canal at the Piccolo Strehler Theater, where the show will be performed again on Thursday.

"I often go to the opera, and I had already watched Chinese operas before, but all of them were classical ones. This one is a modern Chinese opera, thus it is certainly closer to our taste," she noted.

Palumbo said she particularly appreciated the beautiful voices and exciting choreography.

Her husband Sergio Brusadin agreed.

"I was struck by the modernity of this opera and by the fact that it contains Western elements. In fact, I have found that a lot of Eastern people love Italian opera, different from many Italians who are not interested in opera anymore, unfortunately," he highlighted.

The Grand Canal opera is about the monumental works and deep struggle that were behind the conception and construction of the Grand Canal created under the Sui and Tang dynasties between the 6th and 7th centuries to connect southern and northern China.

"We have wanted to tell a Chinese story with a language rich with Western ingredients ... as a combination of an opera show which can fill theaters, but at the same time as a platform for cultural exchange," said Ke Jun, deputy general manager of Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, which brought the opera to stages across Europe.

The Grand Canal, the longest and oldest artificial waterway in the world, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, another reason for choosing it's ancient story as a topic that could be of universal interest, Ke went on.

Ke noted it was the first time The Grand Canal opera was performed abroad after it's success in China.

"We did not know how Western opera enthusiasts would react, especially in a country with as strong an opera tradition as Italy," he said.

Indeed, the positive reaction of the Italian audience, which not only appreciated the opera, but also the narration of a period of Chinese history filled with struggles and feelings common to all, was a great feedback, Ke pointed out.

Franca Nava teaches scenography at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan. "I found it a very complex choreography which makes use of lights and scenes very different from each other in the correct way," she said after watching The Grand Canal opera with her young daughter.

"I found it a mix between the Asian taste and the Italian opera," she told Xinhua.

"There are differences with respect to the Italian opera. Overall, I would say that The Grand Canal opera is a lighter show compared to the Western tradition. I am sure it can be very much appreciated in China and also in the Western world where it can be seen like a musical, in a sense," she underlined.

Boriz Veliz and Gianluca Agazzi are two of Nava's students.

"I only knew the Peking Opera before, but I found something completely different here, and very interesting indeed," Veliz said.

The pair said they were full of questions about this modern Chinese opera and its future development.

"I definitely want to read more about it when I go home," Agazzi told Xinhua.

The Grand Canal opera was sponsored by the Mission of China to the European Union (EU) along with the Chinese embassies in Belgium and in Italy, and the provincial government of Jiangsu. Before coming to Milan, the show performed in Brussels and other EU cities, including Italy's capital Rome.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Qian,Yao Chun)

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