ECNU vocal studies student Guan Chengyuan performed “The First Play of My Life” to kick start a weekend of operatic performances on the evening of November 28 at the Majestic Opera House. ECNU Opera Experimental Center also put together a light opera arrangement of “Bats” that continued into the second night.
The first performance was the portrayal of Ivan the servant and the second night featured one of the antagonists, Falk – “If I said I was not nervous I would be a liar, but I was more excited than nervous!”
There were 150 members and volunteers of ECNU who worked together to put on “Bats”. The rehearsal time was long and rigorous – approx. 9 months – an extended amount of time to get their ideas and methodology in-sync. They brought all of their ideas from the classroom to life as it was performed live onstage the night of November 28.
The person in charge of ECNU Opera Experimental Center and soprano vocalist, Cao Jin, invited Mike Tomi, professor and opera director of University of Music and Dramatic Performing Arts in Vienna, and Daniel Cavazza, conductor of Comedic Opera Institute in Vienna, to guide the ECNU students through rehearsal and coordination.
Mark Tomi is no stranger to ECNU. 10 years ago he led a Mozart opera “The Pretend Garden-Girl” jointly arranged by Vienna University and ECNU. Their rendition of the Mozart opera was formerly premiered at Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace Theatre and the Shanghai Art Theater. Since his first arrival to ECNU, Tomi has made several appearances in Shanghai performing arts circles and has even assisted with new plays and operas.
“Shanghai is a great place,” Tomi said, referring to his experiences at ECNU. “The students of ECNU are also great to work with, whose talents and hard work have resulted in such splendid operatic performances.”
In their work with ECNU students, Cao Jin and Tomi have demonstrated superb chemistry in coming up with ideas to facilitate opera and theater.
Musicians, artists, students and teachers participating in the opera pose for a group photo.
One night, Cao Jian invited Tomi to eat Sichuan food where they were entertained with a classic Sichuanese dance performance. Mark was so inspired by what he witnessed at the restaurant that he suggested they incorporate the Sichuanese-style “changing masks” into “Bats”. His offer was gladly received by Sichuanese opera performing artist, Hong Wanchun, whom had previously performed both Chinese and Western drama in Switzerland.
The combinations of “changing masks” with the Western classic turned ECNU’s “Bats” into a sensational performance. Moreover, in order to bring in a localized dimension, some of the actors’ lines were spoken in Shanghainese dialect which received a pleasant response from the hometown crowd.
ECNU’s “Bats” has definitively raised the bar for up and coming operatic performances seeking international attention. With the help of ECNU’s old friend of Vienna University, ECNU is proud to have staged such performances that blend cultural influences from the East and West. According to Cao Jin, however, the students need more onstage experiences in order to refine their performing arts skills and techniques. She hopes they will strive harder to perform to the best of their capabilities, moving the audience with more raw emotion and talent.