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Conservatory shows its range with two works at festival

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai| China Daily Global| Updated: May 12, 2023 L M S


Produced by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Theater Kiel from Germany, Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata entertains audiences at the China Opera Festival held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC]

The Shanghai Conservatory of Music is presenting two opera productions at the ongoing China Opera Festival.

The festival is a triennial event founded by the then Ministry of Culture in 2011.

It started in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on May 9 and will run until May 26. It features 24 opera productions from all over China.

The conservatory is the only educational institution with two productions on the program list of the festival this year.

The first is the classical opera, Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, which was produced by the conservatory and Theater Kiel from Germany and had two performances.

It was staged on Wednesday and Thursday.

The conservatory decided to revive La Traviata as this year marks the 210th anniversary of the birth of Verdi. The opera was also performed at the Shangyin Opera House, a part of the conservatory, on Friday and Saturday.

The other is A Love Ballad of Kangding, an original opera about the construction of the highway from Sichuan province to the Tibet autonomous region and Qinghai province in the 1950s that will be presented on Thursday and Friday.

Since its opening in 2019, the Shangyin Opera House has been focusing on developing young talent and being a bridge between the conservatory and the public, as well as a hub for international exchanges, says Liao Changyong, president of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

"International collaborations have not only helped students to achieve academic and technical progress, but also have nurtured their music aesthetics and broadened their international vision as well," says Wang Kaiwei, a professor of the conservatory, who is also a producer of the opera.

A Love Ballad of Kangding is based on a popular love ballad involving Tibet. In the 1950s, more than 110,000 highway engineers and workers participated in the construction of the Sichuan-Tibet-Qinghai highway.

Known as the steepest highway in China at that time, the road was built in the mountainous region under difficult conditions.

"Many people lost their lives in the process, and we want to commemorate this chapter in Chinese history, as well as the contribution and sacrifice of the workers," says Liao.

Liao points out that it was challenging for the conservatory to present two opera productions involving more than 400 people at around the same time, and that the curriculum and rehearsal plans had to be adjusted to make things work.

However, he believes that this challenge will go a long way to helping prepare their students for the real world before graduation.

"We hope our students can accumulate some formal performance experiences before they graduate and get a job in a theater company," he says.

"In the past, it took about three years for a newly graduated musician or singer in a company to become qualified for the position. If they have enough experience at school, they would be able to take important positions as principals and leading actors much sooner."

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