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Soprano He Hui as Amelia and Dai Yuqiang in the lead role of Riccardo, duet in the National Center for the Performing Arts' opera A Masked Ball. Provided to China Daily
Looking ahead in 2013, art fans will be served up a variety of flavorsome dishes, including heavyweight opera from Verdi and Wagner, pop from Adele and tasty treats in theater and film. Chen Jie, Mu Qian, Raymond Zhou, Zhang Kun, Chen Nan and Lin Qi report.
2013 is bound to be a big year for opera fans as the whole world is celebrating the bicentenary of two legendary composers. Born in 1813, the German Richard Wagner and the Italian Giuseppe Verdi took operatic theater in completely fresh directions. Their legacies are to be acknowledged this year in a worldwide bonanza of recordings and performances. Controversy, however, has reared its head, as La Scala decided to open its new season with a Wagner opera, in December, and kick-started a cultural debate that veered into politics. China, meanwhile, has raised itself for the occasion and will show that it could be the future and brightest hope of classical music. At its annual opera festival, the National Center for the Performing Arts will present Verdi's Otello, A Masked Ball and Nabucco. Naturally enough, the most eye-catching attraction will be Placido Domingo singing the title role of Nabucco. Though Domingo has visited Beijing a dozen times, including for the Three Tenors Concert at the Forbidden City in the summer of 2001, it will be the first time the renowned tenor will sing a full-length opera here.
Though NCPA favors Verdi over Wagner (with only one production, The Flying Dutchman), Beijing Music Festival will present Wagner's Parsifal, a long awaited debut for the opera in Asia.
Co-produced by Salzburg Easter Festival and Beijing Music Festival, the production, directed by Michael Schulz and with sets and costumes by Alexander Polzin, will be presented firstly in Salzburg, in March, before its performance at the Beijing Music Festival in October with the China Philharmonic Orchestra.
Parsifal was Wagner's last complete opera. The story takes place in the Middle Ages in the Kingdom of the Grail. Amfortas is entrusted with the protection of the Holy Grail, the mythical vessel containing Christ's blood, and the sacred spear with which Longinus pierced Christ's side on the cross. However, he is seduced by Kundry and the spear falls into the hands of Klingsor, an evil magician. The Grail Knights wait for a prophesied "guileless fool", one who will not succumb to Klingsor's temptations because he does not know sin, to recover the spear and heal Amfortas.
Not only opera houses and orchestras will celebrate the bicentenaries of the composers. On Friday, Beijing Symphony Orchestra will open its new season with Chinese soprano He Hui singing Verdi arias under the baton of its music director Tan Lihua, at the Forbidden City Concert Hall.
Beijing Symphony Orchestra's last season was an unqualified success, with 100 concerts at home and abroad. Its joint concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall of London during the Olympic Games won wide acclaim.
This year, Beijing Symphony Orchestra will collaborate further with renowned musicians, including conductor Rennady Rozhdestvensky, violinist Sarah Chang and French pianist Jean Efflam Bavouzet.
In 2013, the orchestra is scheduled to perform at the Dvorak Prague International Music Festival, Bruckner Festival in Austria and Mexico's Cervantes Festival.
In August, the orchestra will launch a Forbidden City Summer Festival to celebrate contemporary Chinese composers such as Guo Wenjing, Zhou Long, Ye Xiaogang and Wang Xilin.
If you don't like classical music, don't fret, Adele is coming. The 25-year-old English singer-songwriter is expected to perform in China at a gala of Chinese and Western pop stars held at the Bird's Nest in April.
The award-winning star has a huge following in the country and her fans have set up a Chinese website and micro blog for her.
Voice of China, a popular talent show, featured Adele's Someone Like You, performed by the 19-year-old Zheng Hong from Fujian province. Her well-received rendition led to her being called "China's Adele".
Meanwhile, dance lovers can look forward to Cloud Gate, arguably the best Chinese contemporary dance company, American Ballet Theater, State Ballet Berlin and our own National Ballet of China.
When choreographer Lin Hwai-min established Cloud Gate in Taiwan, in1973, he named it after a dance mentioned in the Chinese classics. Lin is an expert at creating epic dances that evoke Taiwan's distant or recent past. His early works were narrative and later turned toward abstract meditation.
From Feb 28 to March 2, Cloud Gate will perform Lin's Nine Songs at the National Center for the Performing Arts, which is inspired by Nine Songs, a cycle of poems written by Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).
In 2009, American Ballet Theater impressed Beijing audiences with their astonishing performances.
In March, they will return to the NCPA for Swan Lake and a mixed modern show featuring cowboys and cowgirls.
National Ballet of China is currently touring Canada, but after returning, it will invite Wang Xinpeng, who created the company's trademark Raise the Red Lanterns, to choreograph Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. In September, the company will present Don Quixote.
Up next is drama. One must-see work is Stan Lai's eight-hour play A Dream Like a Dream, which will tour China this year. Lai first put on this epic in Taiwan in 2000, then revived it in 2005 for a Cantonese edition that played in Hong Kong in 2002.
Inspired by India, the drama weaves several characters' dreams and realities into a seamless structure that echoes Buddhist beliefs about life, death and reincarnation.
Like Wagner's Ring Cycle or Tang Xianzu's Kunqu Opera Peony Pavilion, both of which take days and nights to watch, this drama will see the audience sit from afternoon to midnight, with a short supper break. For the event, the theater will be rebuilt to create a custom-designed space for the audience to sit in the center, while actors perform around them.
Leading names on the theater scene - including Lin Zhaohua, Meng Jinghui and Tian Qinxin - will all present new productions this year.
Lin is working on Shakespeare's Coriolanus, the award-winning novel White Deer Plain by Chen Zhongshi, and a drama portraying the life of the late actress Ruan Lingyu (1910-35).
Tian's new play, Green Snake, adapted from the work by Hong Kong writer Lillian Lee, explores the love between mankind and a snake spirit. Another Lee novel adapted into a movie, Farewell My Concubine, by director Chen Kaige, won the Cannes Palme d'Or in 1993.
Meng will continue with his China Fringe Festival, organized by him since 2008, and will take it on a tour, from Beijing to Hangzhou and Shenzhen. What's more, in May, he and Lai and actor Huang Lei will start a new drama festival in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. Young drama lovers will gather here to enjoy the unique water village scenes and passionate drama.
There will also be plenty to see on the fine arts scene this year.
Earth, Sea, and Sky presents 130 works of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which have been rendered as paintings, tapestries, ceramics, bronze and silver ware. They are on loan from 12 of the Met's 17 curatorial departments.
The exhibits are categorized into seven sections: Nature Idealized, The Human Presence in Nature, Animals, Flowers and Gardens, Nature in the Camera Lens, Earth and Sky, and Watery World.
Highlight paintings include Rembrandt's Flora, in which the Dutch master used his deceased wife as his model to depict the goddess of spring, flowers and love; Renoir's Figures on the Beach that portrays the sparkling sea and two women; and Van Gogh's Cypresses, a painting of a tree in Provence that the artist considered to be "as beautiful of line and proportion as an Egyptian obelisk".
The Yuz Museum Shanghai will open to the public in June, in Xuhui district, Shanghai. The private establishment will join the new venue of Long Museum on the west bank of Huangpu River, as part of the W-Bank Cultural Corridor.
The founder of the museum, Budi Tek, is a Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur, art philanthropist and collector. The Yuz Museum Jakarta, which opened in 2008, is the first private museum in Indonesia.
The Yuz Museum Shanghai is under construction, and designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.
Also, China's largest private museum, Minsheng Museum of Modern Art, will expand its presence from Shanghai to open a new space in Beijing. The new venue in Dashanzi will open to the public in the latter half of 2013, featuring an exhibition space of 35,000 square meters.
Minsheng Museum was founded by the namesake bank and is dedicated to the research, collection and support of Chinese art.
Meanwhile, the largest exhibition tour of American artist Andy Warhol in China will take place in Shanghai on April 14 and will continue to the end of July.
The show, entitled Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, will feature more than 260 paintings, drawings, sculptures, films and videos of the artist's works, including his most acclaimed masterpieces, such as Jackie (1964), Marilyn Monroe (1967), Campbell's Soup (1961), and numerous iconic self-portraits.
The exhibition will chronicle the breadth of Warhol's career and demonstrate the full scope of his interests. A wide range of associated documents, interactive timelines, photographs and archival material will be presented. Part of the exhibition space will be recreated into Warhol's legendary studio, The Factory.
Sotheby's upcoming spring sales in Hong Kong will offer 35 works of contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, from a bank official's private collection.
Shun Kurokochi amassed his Nara works between 1988 and 2006. He supported the artist long before he became famous, and the collection is testimony to a unique personal connection between the pair for over a decade.
Another featured sale will offer 46 contemporary Chinese paintings from the 1990s consigned by French collector Didier Hirsch. Works by such star artists as Yue Minjun, Zhou Chunya and Liu Wei capture Chinese people's contradictions during the process of commercialization.
Art Basel's first edition in Hong Kong attracts a prestigious line-up of galleries from 35 countries and regions, and will showcase artworks by more than 3,000 artists, from modern masters of the early 20th century to work from rising stars.
The fair's main sector, Galleries, enables visitors to explore both historical and contemporary art from different regions, cultures and aesthetic traditions. The Insights section is devoted to the ideas and aesthetics of the Asia-Pacific region, through a mix of solo and group exhibitions.
The world's premier art fair spotlights the latest trends in the visual arts. It now has three sites: Basel, Miami and Hong Kong, with each host city producing unique programming, in collaboration with local institutions. Its expansion to Hong Kong reaffirms the city's status as a vital global art hub. It will be held from May 23-26 at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Last but not least, a short preview of the movie industry. Box-office records have been regularly broken of late, especially with domestic releases. In 2012, domestic films set two records, first with The Painted Skin: Resurrection, and the second time with Lost in Thailand. The upcoming Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is set to top these two.
So, which Chinese movie is going to be 2013's ultimate winner? It could well be a surprise hit, but given movie-making's unpredictability, it is safer to bet on old horses.
Feng Xiaogang's Tailor-Made (Siren Dingzhi) takes him back to the familiar ground of comedy, and with a script by Wang Shuo, perhaps China's answer to J.D. Salinger, it could be the thinking man's slapstick favorite. Superstar Vicky Zhao may well become the next debut director to enter the billion-yuan club. Her upcoming look at youth is said to pack a punch.
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Lin Hwai-min's Nine Songs by Cloud Gate. Liu Zhenxiang / For China Daily
American Ballet Theater dancers perform The Moor's Pavane. Provided to China Daily
(China Daily 02/22/2013 page18)