Centenary Puccini opera to debut at NCPA to mark China-Italy art exchanges
2023 version to mark China-Italy art exchanges
Published: Jun 01, 2023 07:44 PM
Photo: Courtesy of National Centre for the Performing Arts

Photo: Courtesy of National Centre for the Performing Arts

Premiering in Rome in 1900, Italian master Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca will debut at China's National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) on June 13, with Chinese and Italian musicians collaborating to bring a "modern twist" into the 123-year old classic. 

At a recent press conference for the show, Alessandra Panzavolta, the show's stage director, said that compared to usual interpretations of the work, the 2023 version in China will feel "more realistic." Collaborating with set designer William Orlandi, the new version has redesigned sets, lighting and props that cater to audience's modern tastes. 

Known for its arias, Tosca is a tragedy rendered by intense love and hatred. The writer Puccini depicts the complex human nature revolving around main characters such as soprano Floria Tosca, tenor Mario Cavaradossi and Baritone Scarpia.  

Italian soprano Monica Zanettin and baritone Ambrogio Maestri will collaborate with Chinese performers such as tenors Han Peng and Wang Cong for the first time on stage. Chinese soprano Sun Xiuwei will also take to the stage to play another "Tosca." 

Her first time performing in China, Zanettin said that she will "endeavor to fully bring out the heroine's passionate and sassy character for Chinese audiences. Maestri, the Italian baritone who plays the biggest villain in the show, said he was "grateful to be an Italian appearing in a Italian show in China." 

"Although I have performed at many theaters in Europe and the US, the Chinese experience is impressive," Maestri said, adding that Scarpia differs from many other baritone roles due to the character's viciousness and manipulative power. 

"I've died on stage for many times because of this role, so please kill me softly this time," he noted.

The show is a stellar part of NCPA's 2023 Opera Festival. Zhao Tiechun, the vice president of NCPA, told the Global Times that around 100 classic Chinese and foreign plays have been staged at the NCPA over the years. 

"Our overseas collaborations never paused, even during the time of COVID-19," Zhao said. 

He revealed to the Global Times they are currently developing a show in collaboration with Oman that should debut before the end of the year. Another classic called The Love for Three Oranges that was originally created by composer Sergei Prokofiev is also "being scheduled." 

Prior to its Beijing debut, NCPA streamed Tosca online in 2022 to an audience of more than 20 million netizens. 

Including NCPA, the show was also co-launched by the Shanghai Opera House and the Shaanxi Opera House. Zhao said this reveals the good "collaboration paradigm" in the Chinese theater industry. 

"Collaborations between multiple institutions can help make efficient use of production resources. We can share experience in art production; collaborations fulfill our eco-friendly production goal too," Zhao said. 

The show is scheduled to end on June 18. The vice president said the NCPA's future goal is to "make large-scale stage productions that show the capabilities of Chinese theaters." 

"I see this goal being achieved in two to three years," he added.