Shanghai takes steps to build itself into a city of opera

The world-renowned Italian opera house Teatro Alla Scala premiered an opera production in Shanghai Friday night, as part of the opening of the 21st China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

A comic opera, "La Finta Giardiniera" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was warmly welcomed by the Shanghai audience. Mozart's masterpiece "Die Zauberflote" ("The magic flute") will hit stages later from Oct. 21 to 24.

Local media also gave high praise to Teatro Alla Scala's debut in China, saying it's "fresh, fun and stimulating," while tickets of the two operas, with prices ranging from 280 yuan (about 40 U.S. dollars) to 1,680 yuan, sold quite well.

"Shanghai is a fantastic city, and there has been an amazing development of opera," said Alexander Pereira, the artistic director of Teatro Alla Scala.

Having been to Shanghai more than 20 times, he has witnessed the city's growing demand for the art genre. "In Shanghai, more and more audiences have great knowledge of opera, and I admire them," he said.

Teatro Alla Scala is coming to Shanghai at the right time, as Shanghai is building itself as a "city of opera" and "the performing art center of Asia." The cost of inviting 250 faculty members of Teatro Alla Scala is said to be extremely high. Even with all tickets sold, the box office would still fail to cover the expense.

"This is the first time for the world's best opera house to come to Shanghai. The quality of the performances is also unprecedented," said Wang Jun, president of the Shanghai International Arts Festival.

To ensure its place on the world map of opera, Shanghai is investing heavily in building world-class opera houses, including the newly launched Shanghai Conservatory of Music Opera House. It is a beautifully-designed building covering an area of more than 30,000 square meters, contains 1,200 seats, and is located in downtown Shanghai.

Shanghai will still build another grand opera house by 2023, which is located next to the site of the 2010 World Expo on the bank of a turn of the Huangpu River, as the city's new landmark.

To build itself into a city of opera, Shanghai not only develops its own repertoires but also introduces many foreign operas to local audiences.

Alexander Pereira found the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Opera House quite "advanced and impressive." "I've been to many countries, and this is one of the best theaters in the world."

He said there would be further cooperation between Teatro Alla Scala and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Opera House very soon, and they would "find a wide range of possibilities of working together."