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World Famous Opera Closes Festival Curtain
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The Beijing Music Festival, which opened with a Russian conductor, orchestra and symphony earlier this month, will close its curtain on Sunday night with one of the most well-known Italian operas.

Gran Teatro La Fenice from Venice will perform Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, one of the world's most famous operas, at the Poly Theatre. A preview performance will be staged tonight at the same venue.

Yu Long, artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival, chose the production to close the festival for two main reasons.

Firstly, La Traviata is arguably the most familiar and popular opera among Chinese. The earliest performances in China date back to the 1920s in Shanghai and Harbin. For many Chinese opera fans, it was La Traviata that opened the door to the Western opera. After China's Central Opera House was founded in 1953, "La Traviata" was the first production the opera house produced. It was also the first opera restaged after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

"La Traviata has developed many opera singers and audiences in the second half of last century in China," said Yu. "It is also the first opera I conducted at the Central Opera House after I finished studies in Germany and returned Beijing."

La Fenice is known for being the cradle of many great operas. It was the site of the infamous fiasco at the premiere of La Traviata on March 6, 1853.

Based on La Dame aux Camlias by Alexandre Dumas, La traviata was a milestone in opera history. However, its premiere on March 6, 1853 at Teatro La Fenice was an utter failure because the contemporary setting, poor casting and scandalous subject were not to the audience's liking.

When the revised La Traviata was performed in 1854, it was an overwhelming success and quickly conquered opera houses around the world.

Today, La Traviata is arguably Verdi's most successful and universally adored opera owing its popularity to the tremendous compassion evoked by the believable characters and the exquisite melodies of the music.

In November 2004, Gran Teatro La Fenice chose the great work to reopen its doors to opera, after the famous theatre finally rose from the ashes of the fire of January 30, 1996, like the Phoenix for which the theatre is named. In this way, Verdi has come back in triumph in one of the most legendary halls of the operatic world.

And the production to close Beijing Music Festival will be staged in 2006/07 season at La Fenice, according to Giampaolo Vianello, board member and the Superintendent of Fenice Theatre Foundation since 2001.

"La Traviata is special to La Fenice and we would like to bring it to Beijing," said Vianello. "I don't know the exact number of how many versions we have produced but this production is very different from the previous in settings, costumes and very close to Verdi's original idea of a contemporary setting when it debut in 1853," Vianello told China Daily. He decided to return to Beijing after the successful concert by the Orchestra of La Fenice at the Sixth Beijing Music Festival in 2003. "We had happy experiences at Yu's Beijing Music Festival, which has been as good as many music festivals in Europe. We had also invited his China Philharmonic Orchestra to Venice. I wish for more collaboration with him in the near future," he added.

Soprano Luz del Alba plays Violetta, tenor Dario Schmunck as Alfredo, who performed the part when La Fenice reopened in November 2004, and baritone Vladimir Stoyanov as Alfredo's father. This is also the cast that will perform at La Fenice next year.

(China Daily October 27, 2006)


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