The newly-opened National
Center for the Performing Arts becomes the focus of attention for
both concert-goers and the curious. (photo: China
The three-day New Year's holiday was windy and cold. But that
didn't stop big crowds from making their way to the newly-opened
National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA).
A few days before, a Swiss man surnamed Meyrat spent half an
hour at the box-office registering to become a member of the NCPA
VIP Club and bought two tickets to a Chinese drama performed by the
Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center in February.
A regular theater-goer who has just started working at a
Beijing-based international organization, Meyrat says he liked what
he saw of the new egg-shaped center.
Dancers from the Kirov
Ballet, from Russia, perform Swan Lake.
"I did not visit the whole venue, but I have been impressed by
the outside architecture, it is one of the best theaters in the
world," he says.
"It's a shame that all the shows in January have sold out."
Hundreds of visitors descended upon the NCPA during the New
Year's holiday. They walked around the "eggshell" surrounded by
water, visited the galleries, took photos and checked out the
brochures, but to their great disappointment, all the shows in
January were sold out.
A reporter fixes her
microphone before the press conference of world famous soprano Kiri
"It's a pity," says Yang Hong, a teacher in her 30's who
accompanied her father to buy tickets for a Peking opera play but
left empty-handed. "Next time, I will check the information online
and try to book tickets in advance."
More than 50 people camped outside the box-office all night to
get tickets of the concert on January 1.
If this year's program is any indication, things will be just as
hectic inside the theater as they are outside.
Following Valery Gergiev conducting his Mariinsky Theater in
Prince Igor, Kirov Ballet will perform Swan Lake, Jewels and Le
Corsaire till January 6.
But to get things started, Seiji Ozawa took the baton of the
National Symphony Orchestra of China for concerts on December 31
and January 1, featuring brilliant pianist Lang Lang, Russian
pianist Vadim Repin, American soprano Kathleen Battle and Chinese
organist Shen Fanxiu.
Seiji Ozawa leads the
National Symphony Orchestra of China in a rehearsal for the New
"I was born in China, so it's special for me to perform the
first New Year's concert at NCPA," the 72-year-old Ozawa says.
"Actually I came here two years ago to see the progress of the
building and discuss the concert.
"This is amazing architecture. I know Chinese make big things,
such as the Great Wall. But this is really beyond my imagination
and I have never seen such a big organ."
Chen Zuohuang, music director of the NCPA, hailed the New Year's
concerts, which featured musicians from Japan, Russia, the United
States and China.
"They represent different cultures and artistic styles but all
together this is a credit to NCPA," Chen says.
He says that Ozawa adjusted his schedule several times to make
the concerts happen. Chen says that Ozawa, who suffers from a
health condition, even refrained from telling his wife and doctor
in case they tried to stop him from coming.
All the musicians were impressed by the new theater. "The
eggshell is a phenomenal structure, especially the water outside.
The atmosphere inside is very comfortable and the performers have
close contact with audiences," says the violinist Repin.
"This is absolutely magic, fantastic architecture. It's
beautiful, not only to see but hear," says the soprano Battle.
"This is my fourth visit to Beijing, but the experience this
time has been the best. I feel so honored to perform with these
great artists here."
"Back home in New York, everyone is talking about China and the
Lang Lang played Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in C Minor at the
New Year's concerts and gave a master class, which was open to
A cleaner works at the
National Center for the Performing Arts.
Chen says he was excited when he found out that Ozawa would play
the Choral Fantasy with Lang Lang, because 11 years ago, when Chen
served as the first artistic director of the National Symphony
Orchestra of China, he invited Lang Lang to perform the piece at
the orchestra's first concert.
"That year Lang Lang was a promising 14-year-old. Today he is a
world-famous pianist. I hope this is a lucky sign for the new-born
NCPA," Chen says.
Lang Lang also recalls that concert. "I remember it was only the
third time I played with an orchestra, but conductor Chen believed
in me and let me perform."
"Now, 11 years later, I have learned more and have a better
understanding of the music and maybe the new NCPA will give me
something new when I play it."
Lang Lang says that he and Ozawa were both born in the Chinese
city of Shenyang and he thinks this link helped inspire an onstage
Attracting hundreds of children and their parents, Lang Lang's
master class turned out to be the best-received educational program
that NCPA has organized.
"Education is important in promoting classic music," Lang Lang
"Many prestigious venues abroad such as the Carnegie Hall
provide high-level educational programs every season. I have heard
that NCPA plans to organize some 300 educational events every year.
It's so good.
"I think the musicians should give classes in flexible ways,
sharing their personal feelings for music and inspiring kids to
Between Ozawa's New Year's concerts and Lang Lang's recital, on
January 2, New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa became the first
foreign opera star to sing at NCPA. Te Kanawa treated the audience
to 21 thrilling songs plus an encore.
"We have waited for more than 20 years to hear Te Kanawa live in
China," music critic Chen Li says.
"Her voice is so natural and delicate. She never tries to be
dramatic for the sake of performing, but is always so
Te Kanawa says that even though she has performed many times,
there was something special about her Beijing debut.
"I have been looking forward to coming to China for a long time.
Now I'm so happy to sing at this amazing theater, which the rest of
the world will see very soon. I carefully selected the program for
the concerts and really enjoy singing for my fans here," she
Left: The new center is a
venue for a variety of performing arts. Right: Dogs used for
security purposes wait at the back of the stage during a
(China Daily January 4, 2008)