NCPA unveils Snow White, the third children’s opera commission

NCPA February/09/2018
From March 9th to 14th, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) will feature the premiere of its third children’s opera commission, Snow White, based on the Grimm’s fairytale of the same name. The NCPA resident composer CAI Dongzhen, librettist CAI Jiahan and Swiss opera director Stephan Grögler, leading a creative team of Chinese and foreign artists, will created a splendid opera for kids with compelling melodies and rich visuals.

Stage design image of Snow White

In 2015, the NCPA produced its first children’s opera commission, The Fisherman and the Goldfish, thus initiating an exploration of the realm of operas for children, followed in 2016 by Looking for the Most Beautiful Arias - Opera Gala for Children and the commissioned children’s opera, Effendi. This time, CAI Jiahan’s adaptations for the libretto have not only rendered classic figures of Snow White, the Queen and the Prince, but have also imbued other characters, such as the magic mirror and seven dwarfs, as well as their various personalities with a charming stage presence.

CAI Dongzhen composed catchy and melodious music, which is peppered with classic pieces, including The Story of Snow White, The Heat of a Tiny Stove and She Is Like a Butterfly. CAI explained, “Snow White is the NCPA’s third children’s opera commission. An opera for children should have an engaging, entertaining story and alluring music that takes them across the highbrow outer threshold of opera and eases them into its inner realms of fantasy. I wanted pleasant, upbeat, and amusing arias that would be relatively simple for the kids to sing along with, melodies that would be easy for them to digest. I’m hoping our little audience will hum along with the actors on the stage.”

Stage design image of Snow White

This is the first time the NCPA has invited both Chinese artists with composing the libretto and score and a foreign director to collaborate in a creative team in placing its finishing touches. The famed Swiss director and set designer, Stephan Grögler, has some visual surprises in stage sets. Unlike the Chinese cartoonish style of children’s operas, the ambience of Grögler’s stage is expressly novel and modern. The bold use of an array of mirror-like surfaces gives the stage a multi-textured appearance to the approximately hour-long opera, which also frequently switches back and forth between as many as twelve scenes, completely alleviating the audience of the “lulls” of opera performances and replacing them with an imaginative space filled with lyrics befitting young people’s tastes and capricious flights of fancy.

Stage design image of Snow White

Although this is an opera made for children, Grögler wishes to direct a thought-provoking story with a moral worth contemplating. “The value you take away from the fairytale is in how it structures the logic of our lives, and fills everything with life. Classic fairytales have given me a framework to fill in when creating a stage, and a case which we can compare with our own lives. Snow White demonstrates the problems girls face when growing up. One aspect of what I want to do with this opera is to help children obtain something to hold onto for support as they growing up, and another is to give them a space in their brain for invention and imagination.”

Stage design image of Snow White

The character Snow White is the focal point for the entire audience. ZHANG Xin, NCPA Resident Artist, and singer, CHENG Wenhuish are the role. The Prince smitten with Snow White is played by singers, WANG Zenan and LI Yang. The Queen, who is jealous of Snow White’s beauty and maliciously hunts Snow White, is played by DUAN Nina and HU Yue. The various personages of the dwarfs are played by members of the NCPA Chorus and singer, ZHAO Denghui. YUAN Ding conducts a chamber orchestra featuring twelve members of the China NCPA Orchestra, providing cheerful, lucid musical accompaniment.
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NCPA Children's Opera Snow White

NCPA Children's Opera Snow White

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