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The fallen woman once again attracts admirers
2021-04-08 
The National Center for the Performing Arts presents La Traviata, one of the most frequently performed operas.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A new NCPA production of Verdi's classic, La Traviata, takes to the stage as part of the center's ongoing opera festival, Chen Nan reports.

In 2010, the production of La Traviata by the National Center for the Performing Arts premiered under the baton of maestro Lorin Maazel at the NCPA's opera house.

The creative team gathered together international artists, including director Henning Brockhaus, stage designer Benito Leonori and Chinese singers, such as soprano Zhang Liping, baritone Liao Changyong and tenor Ding Yi.

With a massive 264-square-meter stage design, reflecting the vanity of Parisian high society in the 19th century, audiences were introduced to a romantic mix of reality and fantasy.

During the past decade, the NCPA has restaged La Traviata five times.

Now, the opera returns once more, with a new version running until Sunday as part of the ongoing NCPA Opera Festival 2021.

"La Traviata, by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, is well-received by Chinese audiences and each version has been sold out," said Zhao Tiechun, NCPA vice-president, at a news conference on Friday.

Soprano Zhang Liping and baritone Liao Changyong play the lead roles in NCPA's latest version of La Traviata.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCPA has not produced operas for a long time. We want to bring audiences back to the theaters with the classic La Traviata," Zhao says, adding that it is one of the most frequently performed operas produced by the NCPA.

On March 9, when the tickets for the opera went on sale, 900 were sold within two hours. Four days before the opera commenced its run, the NCPA had sold over 8,000 tickets.

Verdi's La Traviata premiered in Venice in 1853 and is one of the composer's most popular operas. Inspired by French author Alexandre Dumas' 1848 romantic novel, La Dame aux Camelias, it tells the story of a tragic romance between Violetta Valery, a courtesan in Paris, and Alfredo Germont, a young bourgeois, which ends with Violetta's death.

The cast for the latest NCPA's production sees the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra-the country's oldest-perform under the baton of conductor Yu Long.

Yu led the China Philharmonic Orchestra performance of the NCPA's fifth version of La Traviata in 2016.

Soprano Zhang plays the leading role of Violetta, tenor Shi Yijie plays the role of Alfredo and baritone Liao plays the role of Giorgio Germont-all of the three leading performers have played in the NCPA's previous productions of La Traviata.

The China NCPA Chorus and more NCPA resident opera singers will join in the performances.

Zhang, who was born in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, received vocal training at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music and graduated from the opera department of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1989.

Yu Long takes the baton in the performance of the opera.[Photo provided to China Daily]

As a young student, Zhang saw a filmed performance of La Traviata starring Placido Domingo, the famous Spanish opera singer.

"It was La Traviata that made me fall in love with opera and made me want to pursue the art form," says Zhang, who was the first Chinese-born singer to play a lead role with the New York Metropolitan Opera in Italian composer Giacomo Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

She has been playing in the NCPA's La Traviata since 2010.

Rehearsals started on March 25.Conductor Yu reveals that, as well as the soloists, he was impressed by the performance of the China NCPA Chorus.

"They are an excellent chorus and sing with precision," Yu notes.

Tenor Shi says: "Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's been over a year and a half since I performed in an opera production, which has been very depressing for me.

"La Traviata is the second opera I learned as a young singer and it means a lot to me when I get to return to the stage and play Alfredo."

As a young student, Shi studied with Liao, who now is the president of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Shi adds that he feels honored to perform onstage with his teacher.

Liao, who, like Zhang, has performed in the NCPA's productions of the opera since 2010.

"We have seen the production by the NCPA change over the years. For China's opera lovers, La Traviata has become a classic production now," says Liao.

"Every time we perform it, we feel fresh and different, even though we know the roles very well. The people we work with inspire us and make the production feel new."

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