Shanghai takes classic opera into new space

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Two performances of a modern take of the opera Magic Flute are staged in front of the Shanghai Grand Theatre over Aug 25-26, attracting passers-by to stop and listen. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

In a new production of the opera Magic Flute, prince Tamino is a young Westerner in Shanghai on a quest to rescue princess Pamina.

In the show, he and his friend Papageno then check out women's selfies on a dating app, take a ride on the subway train, and strike kung fu poses when engaged in a fight.

The opera, jointly produced by Staatsoper Hamburg and Shanghai Grand Theatre, had two shows over Aug 25-26 in a giant tent in front of the Shanghai Grand Theatre, to mark the opening of SGT's new season of performances.

"This opening is special for us," says Zhang Xiaoding, the general manager of SGT.

And by presenting the opera in an outdoor space, SGT hopes to "enable the public to have an artistic and aesthetic experience which challenges preconceived ideas".

The stage was a cross-shaped platform in the middle of the tent, which divided the audience seating area into four sections. And the chorus Young Class X consisting of students from the primary and secondary schools in Hamburg rose from the audience to join the show.

Large screens on two sides of the stage flashed the background scenes, among which were landmarks in Shanghai, such as the Bund, Tianzifang and M50.

Yu Yang, a bass singer from the Shanghai Opera House, was the narrator. And it was his narration in Chinese, with occasional jokes in English or the Shanghai dialect, that connected the singing of Sascha Emanuel Kramer as Tamino, Narea Son as Pamina and Renate Spingler as Queen of the Night.

The Magic Flute, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791, is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world, says Zhang. And 200 years later, the play about young people's pursuit of love and the meaning of life still finds resonance in the contemporary world.

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