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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cairo Opera House - Turandot (the one with Nessan Dorma)

On Tuesday night, I had a very enjoyable evening at Cairo Opera House with a friend. We went to see the opera Turandot (that's the one with the Nessan Dorma in it).

Written by Puccini and first performed in 1926, it is set in China and tells the story of a cold-hearted princess who sends her many suitors to their deaths when they fail to answer her riddles. Of course, 'our hero' solves the riddles and wins her heart.

I took a couple of surreptious photos on my camera phone but alas they failed to come out well. You can see pictures in this report (in English):

China Daily report on the performance with photos

The costumes and sets were sumptious and the voices of the lead characters excellent. I discovered a 'hidden prejudice' in myself by being amazed at hearing Chinese singers singing Western opera. Ping, Pang and Pong were very colourful and great tragi-comic figures. The rendition of 'Nessan Dorma' sounded to my ears equally as good as Pavarotti's popular 'football anthem'. The two lead females also had extremely strong voices and I'm sure they were projecting without artificial means. There was a standing ovation at the end for the Princess.
The only person having real problems was the sub-titler, frequently getting out of step with the singers. Some of the translations also made me smile.

My friend and I reflected a while on the slight absurdity of seeing an Italian opera sung in Italian by the Chinese National Opera with English subtitles in the Cairo Opera House, Egypt. A truly international occasion.

The Cairo Opera House is situated on the southern end of Gezira Island (which has Zamalek at the northern end) - in central Cairo. It has its own metro station (Opera) on the Shubra-Giza line - just one stop from Sadat - one of the two interchange stations.

It is of modern design and construction - a Japanese/Egyptian collaboration - building was started in 1985 and the inaugral ceremony was held in October 1988. The building reflects Islamic architecture and other cultural centres within the grounds include the Museum of Modern Art, Palace of Arts, and Music Library.

There are a number of venues within the main building - Main Hall, Small Hall, Open Air Theatre plus associated venues situatied outside this complex.

The Main Hall is balconied. We paid 50LE for our seats in 'the Gods'. However, there were so many empty seats, we were allowed to move to the 100LE seats near the front after the first Act.

The audience was mixed, as a rough guess I would say 50-60% were Egyptian and the rest a mixture of Chinese, European and American visitors.

My friend was grateful that smoking was permitted in the outer areas (not in the Main Hall), and coffee, tea and cakes were available in the intervals.

The airconditioning system was very 'fresh' so a wrap of some sort would have been useful. The dress code seemed to be smart casual - all the men were in jackets and ties, women in anything except jeans. Very few people were wearing 'black tie'.

For further info about the Opera House, including the programme, click here:
Cairo Opera House

More info about Turandot: Turandot

China National Opera: Central Opera House of China

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