The opera Thunderstorm was met with thunderous applause on Thursday in its debut at the London Coliseum.
An award-winning modern opera about family, society and corruption in Old Shanghai, Thunderstorm tells a story of a wealthy, successful and seemingly happy Shanghai household, behind which lies a web of intrigue, a dark family secret and a gathering storm. As corruption is exposed and the family disintegrates, Zhou Puyuan, the head of the family, is confronted with a changing society and the emergence of a new China.
Based on the acclaimed play by Cao Yu, and set to music by legendary composer Mo Fan, the opera depicts a Chinese household in a time of social transition. This is not a traditional Chinese opera, but a Western piece that acknowledges other influences including modern Chinese song, a distinctive genre which flowered at the time the original play was written, and thus is very much relevant to the meaning of the opera.
The opera combines western and Chinese culture by using a large number of arias, recitative ballad duets, ensemble, chorus and instrumental passages from Western opera and many ethnic musical instruments such as the erhu, lute, bangu, and clapper from Chinese traditional opera.
Thunderstorm is an original work based on western opera with rich oriental musical elements. The opera is being performed on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, said Liu Xiaoming, China's Ambassador to the UK, in a congratulatory message after the opera's premiere.
Members of the audience were dazzled by the performance. Sixty-year-old Brian Hick told Xinhua that the show was his first modern Chinese opera, although he had seen the traditional forms before.
Catherine Calder said she felt that Chinese and Western opera share a lot in common. Despite differences in language and culture, the performance nonetheless stood out. She said the story of "Thunderstorm" is not difficult to understand, as love is an eternal theme.
Thunderstrom is produced by the Shanghai Opera House. The performance is part of the Shanghai Season at the London Coliseum, a unique collaboration between the Shanghai Opera and Shanghai Ballet companies.