Italy and China come together at Turin’s Teatro Regio
by Rino Alessi
The Turin Teatro Regio Foundation, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Ncpa), and Beijing’s Opera House have recently reached an agreement on exchanges and co-productions. The result is the first Italian-Chinese opera, Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Dalilah”, directed by Hugo de Ana. In September 2015, Turin will also host the European opening of Guo Wenjing’s “Rickshaw Boy”, which was just presented to great success in Beijing and will go on tour next year.
The memorandum of understanding between Teatro Regio and Ncpa was signed last June by the president of China’s most important musical institution, Chen Ping, and by the Regio’s superintendent Walter Vergnano, who is also president of Anfols – the association merging Italy’s operatic and symphonic foundations, which is in charge of the opening speech at the “2014 Ncpa World Opera Forum”, the conference dedicated to the influence of different cultures in opera productions and to the different needs expressed by audiences in Western and Eastern countries.
The agreement includes exchanges, workshops, training, internships and, most importantly, the first Italian-Chinese co-produced opera. Turin’s Teatro Regio is clearly satisfied with the arrangement: “We are particularly proud of the fact we were chosen to partner with the largest structure in the world of opera in terms of resources,” the superintendent explains. “At the moment, China is one of the nations where music and opera, in particular, are given the most importance, as reflected by the number of super-technological theaters opening in the country. The Chinese are investing more than anyone else in the world in Italian opera. Western institutions should learn from them”.
Turin and culture. “We are on board with the plan for renewal launched by Turin’s mayor. The city has pinpointed culture as its strategic goal to stop the involution that had started after the industrial crisis and Fiat’s demise. Turin had become a sad, abandoned city, but has changed over the past ten years, becoming more beautiful and more livable. It has now established itself as a cultural tourism destination, proving that culture can truly change a city, even with relatively low investments”.
An innovative project. “Last July, we took part in the Mozart Festival with RAI’s Symphonic Orchestra and Turin’s Philharmonic: over 25,000 people filled Piazza San Carlo for performances of ‘Don Giovanni’. More than 10,000 even endured the rain to listen to ‘The Magic Flute’. And sure, Mozart is popular, but these are amazing figures. The Teatro Regio is privileged to be a part of this system. Working together, Turin’s cultural institutions allow for widespread growth, with a great ripple effect. People respect these institutions, and the idea that culture absorbs funding without giving anything back has been proven wrong.”
The 2014-2015 season. “On October 28th, the Teatro Regio in Turin – a major opera stage since 1740 – will start the season with Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Otello’; this year’s program has the most titles since the 1973 reopening. There has been much criticism over the fact that it will be preceded by a performance of the ‘Requiem Mass’: opening with music for the dead seems ironic, if not ominous. But I believe it is a wonderful work, and we wanted Turin to listen to the Verdi we successfully brought to Saint Petersburg, Tokyo, Vienna, and Dresden. It is not a hymn for cultural foundations facing hardship, but a lively celebration of Verdi’s genius”.
The superintendent is particularly proud of the second title on the 2014-2015 program, Handel’s “Giulio Cesare”, in Pelly’s setup already presented in Paris. “The Baroque repertoire is often overlooked in Italy, but in fact allows the best visual expression of contemporaneity.” “Giulio Cesare” will also mark the debut of Teatro Regio’s new curtain, offered by Prada and Fai, which by then will be finished and ready to replace the one currently in use.
Turin and Milan’s Expo. “We want to develop an Italian system for repertoire theater, and in July 2015 – while the Expo will be in full swing in Milan – Turin will be a valuable alternative for those who cannot get into La Scala. We are working on four shows: ‘La Bohème’, ‘The Barber of Seville’, ‘La Traviata’, and ‘Norma’. These are four works we have a long experience with, so we are able to set up a dense and exciting program of performances to offer an international audience the culture and entertainment of four Italian masterpieces.”