As part of the celebrations of the first Year of Cultural Exchange between China and Britain in 2015, students from London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama début in Shanghai's Grand Theatre on 3 April with Opera Scenes. The scenes, directed by Victoria Newlyn, herself a Guildhall alumna from the acting faculty, will be presented at the Barbican Theatre from 31 March before transferring to China.
The Guildhall is one of the world's most prestigious conservatoires, yet it also trains actors and theatre technicians, so while vocal students have included Bryn Terfel and Anne Sofie von Otter, the Guildhall has also produced the musicians Jacqueline du Pré and James Galway, and actors Ewan McGregor, Julia McKenzie, Daniel Craig, Joseph Fiennes, Eileen Atkins, Simon Russell Beale and many, many others.
Opera Scenes is an opportunity for singers and repetiteurs from the first year of the Opera Course to show off their wares. These are students who have already undergone extensive vocal training and are polishing their skills for the opera stage. Although it is described as an “informal performance” in a workshop setting, the level is always extremely high, worthy of touring to China.
School Principal, Barry Ife, said,
The project will give our young singers a wonderful opportunity to communicate their art to a new audience and we hope that this will be the start of a regular exchange of artistic projects including bringing some classical Chinese opera to London.
The year of China-UK cultural exchange is an excellent opportunity to improve mutual understanding of each nation's artistic and performing traditions, and to find ways of developing those art forms for new audiences in the 21st century.
The twelve singers and two repetiteurs will present scenes from Mozart's Così fan tutte, Mitridate and Don Giovanni, Handel's Ariodante and Donizetti's L‘elisir d'amore, and, interestingly, Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tiresias.
We also are planning a number of residencies in which practitioners can learn about how the arts are developed and managed in each of our two countries.
Just as tickets at the Barbican cost just £10, the Chinese audience will be able to assist the performances with just $15. Interest in opera and ballet in China is growing fast and low cost events such as this will allow even more people to dip their toe into the opera pond.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.