NCPA will present a classical opera Thaïs by Jules Massenet

NCPA January/08/2018
On February 2nd-6th, 2018, as a new production of NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts), the classical opera Thaïs, created by French composer Jules Massenet, will usher in the first round of performances. Following his presence in Nabucco, Simon Boccanegra and Macbeth, Plácido Domingo, crowned as the “King of Opera” , will join the NCPA cast and play the leading male role - “Athanaël”.

Director, set&costume designer Hugo de Ana delivers a speech at the press conference
Photo by WANG Xiaojing

On January 5th, the NCPA held a press conference in Beijing, which was attended by Hugo de Ana (director, set designer and costume designer), as well as all actors and actresses of the production in Beijing. They spoke about creation ideas and highlights for the upcoming opera. YANG Xiaoyu, Concertmaster of China NCPA Orchestra, performed Meditation on the site, which is quite familiar to local audiences.

Following Carmen (Bizet), Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Offenbach) and Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns), Thaïs, another French opera masterpiece created by Massenet, will be presented on the Chinese stage for the first time. In the past decade, the NCPA has presented a total of 58 Chinese and foreign operas.

In view of audience growth and aesthetic needs for broader coverage of opera repertoires, the NCPA will keep expanding the diversity of repertoires, to form a more diversified opera production pattern, and present even more opera classics of different periods and countries.

With respect to French operas, Thaïs (Jules Massenet) and Romeo and Juliet (Charles Gounod) will successively come out under the NCPA’s performance schedule for 2018. Although maestro Domingo is nearly eighty years old, he still does his best efforts to play the challenging role of “Athanaël”. The NCPA is deeply impressed by his diligent attitude. The maestro’s favorite Thaïs has become the first option when the NCPA selects opera repertoires created by Massenet.

The stage design picture of Thaïs by Hugo de Ana

The opera was adapted from the novel of the same name authored by French writer Anatole France. The opera tells a story of a young ascetic monk Athanaël seeking salvation for Thaïs, asocial butterfly of Alexandria City. But she indulges in carnal pleasures without restraint and still radiates peerless charms. But it is too late when Athanaël finds himself deeply obsessed with her.

Athanaël’s initial firmness and devoutness, his anxiety under carnal desire for Thaïs and his pain and struggle against deep love for Thaïs are manifested in a dramatic and incisive manner, which epitomize human nature at its utmost extent.

In order to perform the classical opera with symbolic significance, the NCPA once again invites the world-famous director and set design master Hugo de Ana to serve as director, set designer and costume designer of Thaïs. Hugo de Ana is good at using realistic elements to express infinite symbolic connotations.

Hugo de Anna can demonstrate symbolic connotation and philosophical meanings of the opera, give full play to stage with different textures (such as wood and metal) and the costumes with both oriental elements and classical elements, shed light on the inner world of the ascetic monk, an erotic world of Alexandria City and the spiritual world of disentangled and sublimated Thaïs that will stimulate the audiences’ reflections on belief and human nature.

The NCPA version will not only feature the distinctive presence of Domingo, but also proceed under the baton of Patrick Fournier, an excellent French opera director and a frequent guest conductor of Massenet Festival. Fournier has brilliant attainments in French operas, and has collaborated with maestro Domingo in multiple versions of Thaïs.

Thaïs is really a challenging role for all sopranos. Soprano Ermonela Jaho, who holds the spotlight in Teatro alla Scala, Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House and other worldwide top opera houses, has been invited to play the leading female role of Thaïs. According to role personalities, the opera classic will be co-starred by other excellent Chinese and foreign singers.

It is worth mentioning that the NCPA attaches great importance to establishing a platform for Chinese vocalists to cooperate and exchange with maestro Domingo, who also attaches great importance to such endeavors. LI Yi, ZHANG Wenwei, JIA Kun, DONG Fang, DUAN Nina, HONG Zhiguang, ZHANG Wenqin and other Chinese vocalists, who have risen to fame in the opera arena both at home and abroad, will come together and play their respective roles in the masterpiece.
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