Chinese opera to present Marco Polo's romance

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The story of young Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo is to be retold to his compatriots, as the Carlo Felice Theater (CFT) signed in Rome a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on original opera Marco Polo with its Chinese producer to have the opera open the theater's 2019-2020 season.

Produced by China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG) and debuted in Guangzhou Opera House in 2018, the opera has a German composer, a Danish stage director and is performed in Chinese by international singers.

The opera, as the CFT's Art Director Giuseppe Acquaviva viewed "important in many ways," is a fresh fruit of the cultural exchanges between Europe and China, two ends of the ancient Silk Road.


Nearly 700 years ago, Marco Polo, the first European who left a detailed chronicle of his 24 years' journey in Asia, amazed Europe with his travel notes. Ever since, Marco Polo's name has become a symbolic link between the East and the West.

According to the MoU signed between CFT and CAEG on March 22, the opera is scheduled to stage at the Italian theater in Genoa in September. It will be the opera's first foray into the overseas market, said the opera's executive producer Chen Rui.

To bring the audience back to ancient Chinese city Lin'an (now the capital of Zhejiang Province in east China) where Marco Polo met his beloved girl, British video designer Luke Halls will use the advanced holographic projection technology to present the sceneries.

"This time we will present Marco Polo's legend with an original Chinese-written opera. And this is an unprecedented attempt," said Chen, who is also the general-manager assistant of the Guangzhou Opera House.

"Marco Polo is the pioneer of China-Italy cultural communication. He made the Europeans to start yearning towards China," said Acquaviva, who decided to introduce the opera to Italian audience after watching it in China last year.

Calling the opera an exemplar of cooperation between the East and the West, CFT Superintendent Maurizio Roi told Xinhua, "When the new production premieres in Genoa it will be a true joint project between Italy and China."

According to Roi, the CFT will provide the orchestra, the chorus, and the set for the Italy premiere in September, but the opera itself, the costumes, and the cast aside the personage of Marco Polo will fall to the Chinese side.

"This will be an important project in many ways," Acquaviva said in an interview. "First, because it's important to produce new operas, and also because of the value of strengthening ties between Europe and Asia. That's what Marco Polo did, and with this production we'll do our part as well."


This is not the first time that Italian and Chinese artists cooperated on a story about Marco Polo. Thirty years ago, the TV series "Marco Polo" co-produced by China, America and Italy was broadcast in 1982 with then well-known Chinese actor Ying Ruocheng played Kublai, the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, who warmly welcomed the Italian explorer.

Ying showed his fluent English in that TV series. This time Italian tenor Giuseppe Talamo will sing in Chinese on stage.

The 39-year-old Italian singer said that although he has performed roles in English, French, and German, he has never sung a note in Chinese, so he is now learning Chinese with professional guidance.

"You don't have to speak a language in order to sing in that language, but, still, this will probably be the biggest challenge of my career," Talamo told Xinhua.

"I console myself by remembering that even if I have an Italian accent when I sing in Chinese, that Marco Polo probably had the same accent when he visited China," he said.

"A magic combination" is what Stage Director Kasper Holten described the opera. "Marco Polo's story has been well-known for many people for many years, but we can present it in new ways," he said.

"It is a Chinese opera, as well as a European one, which is written and produced by Chinese and composed by German. That is exciting," said Holten.

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