National Centre for the Performing Arts Opera

A Part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series

For cast lists, please visit the Opera Series Overview.

Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Opera Company returns to the WFMT Opera Series as a part of our ongoing partnership with the world-renowned Chinese arts organization. The set of four operas marks a midpoint in the season, presenting three well-known Western masterworks and a contemporary Chinese opera never before heard on US radio.

First up is Rossini’s audience-favorite William Tell, with a cast of Chinese and Western artists including Giovanni Meoni, SONG Yuanming, Antonio Siragusa, SHI Yijie, and many more. Next up is an exciting production of Chinese composer YIN Qing’s The Ballad of the Canal, presented here for the very first time on US radio. This beautiful opera celebrates the ups and downs of life on the canal, full of joy and sorrow, life and death, righteousness and evil—all sung in a virtuosic and stunning style.

Otello, Verdi’s setting of Shakespeare’s tale of love and loss, passion and revenge, follows, with another fabulous cast that combines the talents of Western and Chinese artists. Gustavo Porta stars in the titular role, with Lana Kos as Desdemona, John Lundgren as Iago, GUAN Zhijing as Lodovico, and WANG Chuanyue as Cassio. And finally, the first part of the 2023 Opera Series ends with a bang, featuring an epic production of Wagner’s masterwork, the exceptional Tannhäuser. Endrik Wottrich stars as Tannhäuser, with Barbara Haveman as Elizabeth, Giuseppina Piunti as Venus, Markus Werba as Wolfram, and many more. Internationally acclaimed conductor LÜ Jia leads the NCPA Orchestra and Chorus for these exciting productions from China’s leading opera house.

NCPA Production, the organization’s Opera Company, is at the heart of NCPA’s artistic creation and is an important embodiment of the organization’s mission. Since its inception in 2008, the Opera Company has produced a great number of high-quality operas popular with audiences, showing its vitality and unique characteristics as an art production institution. In addition to masterworks of the Western canon, a cornerstone of NCPA Production’s identity is promoting the development of new and traditional Chinese opera art.

The training and performance programme of NCPA Resident Singers was launched on October 21st, 2011. Adhering to the NCPA principle of “for the people, for art, for the world”, NCPA resident singers have performed in many operas, winning high acclaim from conductors and directors at home and abroad. So far, NCPA resident singers have put on over 60 operas in collaboration with many well-known Chinese and Western artists.

Please Note: the Chinese family name comes first and is in uppercase. The first name is in sentence case and comes second in the listings above.

 

SYNOPSES:

William Tell

The story takes place in 13th century Switzerland, which was at that time governed by Austria. The skillful archer William Tell and his family live on the Lucerne lakeside. It’s the Herdsmen’s Day, and by local custom the esteemed Elder Mel Sheetal will bless all the local lovers on this day, solely excepting his son Arnold, for Arnold has fell in love with Mathilde, a girl saved by the son. However, Mathilde’s father Gessle, a commissioner who was sent to Switzerland by Austria, reigns over the Swiss people like a devil. Arnold is caught in a dilemma, for he loves his motherland and Mathilde at the same time, so he doesn’t dare come for the blessing. At this time, a herdsman named Roy Todd tells Tell that one of Gessle’s soldiers insulted his daughter and he killed the man in anger. Considering Todd has no way to escape but to cross the lake, Tell decides to help him. As a result, Gessle’s officer Rudolf fails to catch Todd, but arrests the Elder Mel Sheetal instead. Arnold and Mathilde are deeply in love while Tell and another patriotic youth named Forster warn Arnold to quit his love for Mathilde for the sake of Switzerland, telling him that the Elder Mel Sheetal has been killed by Gessle. Arnold resolves to avenge his father. Then, the three men become friends, vowing to overturn Austria’s tyranny and liberate Switzerland.

On the 100th anniversary of Austria governing Switzerland, Gessle orders his men to put his hat on a stake and forces all Swiss people to bow before the hat, but Tell refuses to do that when passing through with his son. Gessle’s men recognize Tell as the one who helped the herdsman Roy Todd to escape, and immediately, Gessle plots an evil plan. He puts an apple on the head of Tell’s son, saying that Tell has to receive punishment unless he shoots the apple. The skillful archer Tell shoots the apple with his first arrow, claiming that in case he could not have shot the apple with his first arrow, he would have shot Gessle with his second. Gessle flies into a rage and orders his men to capture Tell. At that moment, the Swiss people arm themselves to revolt against Austria’s tyranny. They fiercely attack the Austrian army and Gessle is shot dead by Tell at last. The fight ends with the complete victory of the Swiss people.

 

The Ballad of the Canal

During the Ming Dynasty, scholar QIN Xiaosheng is captured by the police for exposing official’s corruption cases in Hangzhou. The folk singer SHUI Honglian, resisting being a concubine, also flees to the banks of the canal. The two meet up at a sacrifice ceremony for the Dragon King of the river, where there is a song and dance tournament. QIN and SHUI pose as performers on the dragon boat and escape. QIN wears sailor LI Xiaoguan’s abandoned uniform and poses as a sailor. They take the boat of ZHANG Shuiyao and head north along the canal in exile.

Meeting in these troubled circumstances, they fall in love with each other—but the ship owner ZHANG also has a jealous love for SHUI. Over Suzhou pier, the ship encounters the woman GUAN Yanyan, who, due to the romantic sailor Li’s tricks and deceit, gave birth to a child and cried her eyes out, becoming blind in her sorrow. ZHANG announces QIN to be the deceitful LI Xiaoguan. To avoid arrest from his previous warrant, QIN has no way to speak up and is forced to live together with GUAN. If the truth is told, GUAN will resort to suicide; QIN and SHUI are in immense grief at not being able to be together.

ZHANG finds out QIN’s true identity and informs the police. In danger, SHUI asks QIN to take the blind GUAN to go first, staying behind to stall for time. ZHANG binds SHUI with rope in an attempt to lure QIN to come back. To save her love and to prevent him from trying to save her, SHUI ignites the lamp on board and burns the boat with herself on it.

In his grief, QIN wants to follow SHUI away to the next life. But GUAN implores him to finish the uncompleted cause of SHUI, and QIN is moved to take action. QIN and GUAN travel to Beijing to denounce the corrupt officials of the Emperor’s court.

 

Otello

Iago, a Venetian soldier and ensign, is passed over for promotion by Otello, a Moorish nobleman who has returned with a triumph from a battle. As a result, Iago has determined to destroy Otello’s happiness. He deceives Cassio, whom Otello promoted ahead of Iago, to be drunk while on duty, thereby prompting Otello to dismiss the dishonored Cassio from his service and make Iago his lieutenant.

Not satisfied with this revenge, Iago goads Otello into believing that his wife Desdemona is Cassio’s lover. Otello soon becomes obsessively jealous and willing to believe anything he is told about his innocent wife. Iago’s final ‘proof’ of Desdemona’s infidelity revolves around the loss of a special handkerchief Otello has given her during their courtship. Iago tricks his wife Emilia into stealing the handkerchief, and then convinces Otello that Desdemona has given it to Cassio as a love token.

When Desdemona cannot produce the handkerchief, Otello is certain she has been unfaithful and swears an oath of vengeance on his wife and on Cassio. Enraged, Otello smothers Desdemona with a pillow. A horrified Emilia enters, and Otello justifies himself, citing the handkerchief as the proof. Recognizing the handkerchief as the one she has stolen for her husband’s deceit, she is stunned and reveals Iago’s guilt. Otello then draws a concealed weapon and stabs himself, kissing Desdemona as he dies.

 

Tannhäuser

Act I

After months spent as a willing captive of Venus, the poet and singer Tannhaüser begs the goddess to let him leave. Venus tries to prevent him from going, but gives in to Tannhaüser when he evokes the Virgin Mary.

A group of knights discovers Tannhaüser at the foot of the fortress of Wartburg. Among them are Hermann, the landgrave, and Wolfram von Eschenbach, Tannhaüser’s friend. The poet refuses to join them at first, but when Elisabeth’s name is mentioned, he decides to follow them to the castle and take part in a singing contest.

 Act II

In the Hall of Wartburg, Elisabeth momentarily forgets her sorrow and joyously sings of her happiness at Tannhaüser’s return.

During the singing contest, Wolfram evokes pure love, but Tannhaüser retorts with an ode to the pleasures of the senses. Before an audience horrified by his daring language, he reveals, in his excitement, his passionate experience in Venusberg. As the knights draw their swords, Tannhaüser is protected by Elisabeth. Banished from Wartburg, Tannhaüser must join the pilgrims bound for Rome and obtain the Pope’s forgiveness.

 Act III 

Several months pass. The pilgrims return from Rome.

Elisabeth, who has never stopped praying for Tannhaüser’s redemption, does not find him among the pilgrims. She is broken-hearted. Wolfram confesses his sadness to the evening stars, in a romance full of devotion and nostalgia, announced at first by the violins.

Tannhaüser has in fact returned from Rome. But his only desire is to find his way back to the cavern of Venus. In Rome, the Pope refused his plea for redemption, declaring he had no more chance of being absolved than the Pope’s staff had of sprouting leaves. Tannhaüser tells Wolfram about his journey. As he is about to depart for Venusberg, he notices a funeral procession descending the hill, bearing the corpse of Elisabeth to her grave. He collapses on her coffin, calling out “Holy Elisabeth, pray for me”. The Pilgrims appear and announce that there has been a miracle in Rome: the Pope’s staff has sprouted leaves. Tannhaüser has been redeemed.

Summary and synopsis courtesy of NCPA.

 

About the Host:
Lisa Flynn has been a program host and producer for WFMT since 1991. She presents The New Releases and has hosted many programs for the WFMT Radio Network, including War Letters (which won the 2002 Peter Lisagor Award) and a series of live broadcasts from Salzburg to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006. As WFMT’s midday weekday announcer, Lisa hosts live studio performances and interviews guest artists including Renée Fleming, John Adams, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, John Eliot Gardiner, and many others. Before coming to Chicago, Lisa presented classical music at WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, and at WMFE and WUCF in Orlando, Florida. She holds a music degree from the University of Central Florida.

 

This program is a part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series, a series designed to complement the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to fill out the year with great Opera content. The series begins in June and lasts until December.

Details

Category: Operas
Duration: 2-hour / Varies by Opera
Frequency: Flexible
Availability: 09/02/2023 - 09/23/2023

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