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Guangzhou's 'twin boulder' Opera House opens its doors

10 May 2010, [Originally posted on 6 May 2010]

Guangzhou Opera House
Guangzhou Opera House(Image: Zaha Hadid)

Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot
Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot(Photo: Ken Howard / San Diego Opera)

A new 1,800-seat opera house in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou will open its doors tonight with a performance of Puccini’s Turandot.

Conducted by Lorin Maazel, the international cast for this staging of Reina Sofía's 2008 Palau de les Arts production includes Ukrainian soprano, Anna Shafajinskaya, as the Princess, Canadian tenor, Richard Margison, in his signature role of Calàf, and Chilean soprano, Christina Gallardo-Domâs, singing Liù.

The auditorium has taken five years to construct and cost one billion Chinese Yuan (USD $146 million). 

Built on the banks of the Pearl River, its bold and futuristic design by award-winning British architect, Zaha Hadid, looks like two giant boulders taken from the river bed.

It is likely to be one of the key attractions during this year’s Asian Games, due to take place in Guangzhou during November.

Together with its neighbouring multifunctional hall, the Opera House forms the core of the city’s growing cultural quarter, plans for which include a museum and sites for metropolitan activities.

It is now also the third largest auditorium of its kind in China, outranked only by Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Shanghai Grand Theatre.

A recent announcement by Guangzhou Opera House said that more than 200 performances are being planned for 2010, but further details have not yet been confirmed.


Richard Margison spoke to Opera Now after the first night of Turandot at Guangzhou Opera House:

“The new building is spectacular and is definitely going to be a landmark. It’s not quite finished yet, but the scope of the site that has been planned is very impressive.”

“The auditorium itself is pretty big inside, but still has an intimate feeling. I must also say that the acoustic is fantastic – not too dry and not too bright. Of course, during rehearsals it felt a little too bright, but with the audience in there it warmed up and the balance felt just right.”

“We kept the opening night performance going continuously. As a result, there weren’t many opportunities for people to applaud after each item, but at the end of the opera the response was extremely tumultuous and we received a long standing ovation.”

“The orchestra was the Shanghai Opera Orchestra and the chorus was also from the Shanghai Opera, augmented by a local chorus from Guangzhou. Their contribution to the performance was tremendous.”

“I don’t think that the technical team had had enough time to get used to everything, so there were a few glitches on the technical and make-up side of things, but nothing that can’t be ironed out over time.”

“All in all, it’s been a huge honour for me to be part of the birth of a new opera house and a new audience. It’s a wonderful venue and I’d certainly like to come back here to perform again in the future”


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