The National Centre of Performing Arts (Guo Jia Da Ju Yuan)
The National Centre of Performing Arts in Beijing is colloquially described as the ‘Giant Egg’ for obvious reasons once you see it. It is located on Chang An Jie close to the Forbidden City with the Great Hall of the People to its east.
The Centre was originally named the Grand Theatre and designed by French architect Paul Andrew.
It includes the main building (containing three performing venues: the Opera House, the Concert Hall, the Theater), underwater corridors, an underground garage, an artificial lake and a green space outside.
The Centre covers an area of about 118,900 sq meters; and the total area of building is about 217,500 sq km which in layman’s terms means it’s ‘absolutely huge’. The whole project started from December 2001 and after more than five years’ construction, was finally completed in September 2007. Now it is believed to be the deepest architecture in Beijing (the deepest place of the center is -32.5 meters, equivalent to the height of a 10 storey building.). It presents a sharp contrast to its surroundings with its oval exterior, which makes it very beautiful.
The exterior is a steel-structured oval shell which is formed by over 18,000 titanium plates and over 1,000 sheets of ultra-white glass. This creates a vivid visual effect as if the curtain is drawn apart slowly before your eyes.
Surrounding the centre is a crystal-like artificial lake taking an area of 35,500 square meters. By the use of high technology, it does not freeze in winter and algae doesn’t grow in summer.
To access a concert or opera at the Centre, you walk in with a layer of water above your head as all passages and entrances are built underwater. When we visited we saw a performance of composer Guiseppi Verdi – his tragic opera ‘La Traviata‘ – it was as good as any other opera I have seen in Australia and elsewhere.
‘La Traviata‘ is a tragic love story and one of the most produced opera of all time (a favourite of mine I must say). When ‘La Traviata‘ first opened in 1853 the performers were jeered by the audience. No such problems for us. Our audience comprising mainly Chinese, some westerners and a couple of Europeans were very well behaved. It was nice to hear the Europeans in the audience shouting ‘bravo bravo’ during the performance.
In our performance, Violetta, a French courtesan who is hosting a party after an illness, was performed by Inva Mula, an Albanian opera soprano. Violetta’s husband, Alfredo, was performed by well known Chinese tenor Ding Yi. A magnificent performance by both and a very worthy mention must go to Liao Changyong, perhaps China’s most distinguished classical music baritone and ‘Asia’s Number One Baritonee’ who performed as Alfredo’s father – a truly wonderful voice.
Of course at the end of the evening, it was pure chaos trying to catch a taxi from the Centre as taxis are not permitted to stop along Chang An Jie…so we walked adjacent to Tian’an men Square and finally found a little silver cart – which are quite unstable for long distances but as we could not find a taxi we hopped in and paid too much; but it got us home.