Opera enthusiasts in China have the chance to catch a reimagined production of George Frideric Handel’s baroque opera Semele at the Shanghai International Arts Festival this week.
The two sold-out shows on Friday and Saturday will be performed by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall as part of the orchestra’s 140th anniversary celebrations. It will be the first time a staged opera has been produced in the hall.
Handel’s opera, based on a story from Greek myth, was first performed in London in 1744 and bringing it to China was part of the London-based KT Wong Foundation’s mission to foster mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world through collaborative cultural projects.
Linda Wong Davies, founder and chair of KT Wong Foundation, said: “As artistic producer of the 2019 Semele Re-Imagined, I am grateful for the support of the United Kingdom government in recognizing the importance of close cultural collaboration between the UK and China. I have always believed in the benefit of bringing different cultures together through the arts.”
She added the opera”embodies the ethos of the KT Wong Foundation fusing Chinese and Western cultures to create an innovative and accessible work of art”.
The reimagined production will be led by Chinese conductor Maestro Yu Long, music director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, who said he was “thrilled” to bring the opera to his home city.
The Shanghai show follows a 2009 production of the same piece directed by Chinese artist Zhang Huan which premiered at Theatre de la Monnaie Brussels, before also being performed at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, as well as being part of the Beijing Music Festival.
Zhang’s East-meets-West adaptation of the titular Greek myth featured a centuries-old Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) temple which acts as an altar, palace, crematorium and heaven.