by Xinhua writer Zhang Jianhua
LONDON, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Watching highbrow opera performances can be costly, but a group of British artists have come up with a smart strategy to help opera lovers spend less and enjoy more: selecting the best bits of many classic operas and putting them together into a single show.
This ambitious project, named "Opera Scenes," is currently undertaken by more than a dozen young artists from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as part of the celebrations of the first Year of Cultural Exchange between China and Britain in 2015.
The prestigious London-based conservatoire is working to present a series of classical and contemporary operatic excerpts for audiences in both countries this year.
"Opera Scenes" consists of classic scenarios from around a dozen western operas, including Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, Mitridate and Don Giovanni, Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tiresias, Handel's Ariodante and Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore.
Different from a full-scale operatic production, the "Opera Scenes" project represents a colorful collection of scenes from many classic operas interwoven within a shared concept to form a continuous 3-hour performance.
After being staged in London in late March, the show is set to make its Chinese debut at Shanghai Grand Theater on April 3.
"The project will give our young singers a wonderful opportunity to communicate their art to a new audience and we hope that this will be the start of a regular exchange of artistic projects including bringing some classical Chinese opera to London," said Barry Ife, principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
"The year of China-UK cultural exchange is an excellent opportunity to improve mutual understanding of each nation's artistic and performing traditions, and to find ways of developing those art forms for new audiences in the 21st century," he added.
In "Opera Scenes", 12 singers and two repetiteurs from the Guildhall School's opera course will perform a range of excerpts in a workshop setting, allowing anyone new to the art form to get a taste of a variety of different operas.
"'Opera Scenes' offers a nice cross-section of excerpts from the Western operatic tradition. They are presented in a studio environment and the audience is very close to the singers and the action. The effect is very powerful," Ife elaborated.
It would normally take months and cost quite a fortune to watch all the full productions, but "Opera Scenes" has managed to sell tickets as cheap as 10 pounds (about 14.9 U.S. dollars) to ensure the anthology-style program is accessible to the public.
Impressed by a growing appetite for British theater in China, Ife said "Opera Scenes" aims to provide a more "immersive" experience for Chinese opera-goers.
"Immersive theater brings the actors and the audience into close proximity and is usually staged in non-traditional venues where it is easier to break down the barriers between the stage and the auditorium," he explained.
The principal noted that the Guildhall School is also slated to announce further collaborations with Chinese institutions in the field of opera, drama and actor training later this year.
"We also are planning a number of residencies in which practitioners can learn about how the arts are developed and managed in each of our two countries," he said.