Chinese version of 'The Phantom of the Opera' set to open in Shanghai
Published: Apr 24, 2023 11:28 PM
A scene from The Phantom of the Opera Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Culture Square

A scene from The Phantom of the Opera Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Grand Theater

The Phantom of the Opera just ended its run on Broadway last week, and a Chinese version of the global hit show is set to have its premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theater on May 2.

The show is based on the 1910 French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. It tells the classic story of the Phantom, a masked musical genius who lives in the labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House and falls madly in love with a beautiful soprano, Christine Daae. When she reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Chagny, the Phantom's obsession sets the scene for a dramatic collision of jealousy, madness and passion.

Since its debut in London's West End in 1986 with an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it has been one of the world's most successful musicals. It has been staged over 65,000 times in 183 cities in 17 languages across the globe. It has been watched by over 145 million people and has won over 70 musical awards.

The Chinese version will be the musical's 18th language edition, based on a long-term collaboration project between SMG Performing Arts Group and Really Useful Group.

According to information from Shanghai Grand Theater, the early preparation for the Chinese version began in 2018, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the preparations. Casting for the Chinese version of the musical began in July 2022 with over 1,000 actors applying for the roles, but it wasn't until March this year that the cast for the three lead roles was finally decided. Three groups of lead roles have prepared due to the long time span of the national tour for the musical after the Shanghai performance.

The Phantom will be played by Ayanga, Liu Lingfei and He Liangchen, with Zhao Chaofan, Ma Tianlong and Li Chenxi playing Raoul, and Yang Chenxiuyi, Pan Hangwei and Lin Shao playing Christine.

The Chinese show will have about 39 performances in Shanghai from May 2 to June 4 before moving to other major cities including Shenzhen, Foshan, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha by the beginning of 2024. Nearly 200 performances have been planned so far.

The original English version of The Phantom of the Opera is also known for its spectacular stage setting, gorgeous costumes and iconic chandelier. The Chinese version will use the same costumes and stage setting as in the original, with more than 230 costumes under preparation.

Producing a Chinese version of such a large-scale show is of great significance for the development of Chinese musicals, said popular singer Ayanga, who is also a co-producer of the Chinese version.

"In 1988, when the Japanese version of The Phantom of the Opera premiered in Tokyo, it brought revolutionary changes to the entire musical industry in Japan at that time," Ayanga said. "Likewise, I believe the performance will also promote the growth of China's musical industry." 

The English version was first staged in Shanghai in 2004. It came back to Shanghai and was also shown in Guangzhou and Beijing from 2012 to 2015, leaving Chinese audiences deeply impressed.

"After I watched The Phantom of the Opera in 2004, those classic melodies haunted me for several weeks afterwards," one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo. "That's when I started to become fond of musicals."