Monday sees an unusual event in Taipei’s National Concert Hall. Called Un Bel Di — Puccini Festival, it’s the central scene from Madama Butterfly and the complete one-act opera Gianni Schicchi. The latter was performed to great acclaim by the Taipei Symphony Orchestra (TSO) earlier in the month, and many of the same soloists will be taking part again. But this time the orchestra will be the Hsin Tien Youth Orchestra (國立新店高中音樂班管絃樂團), the role of Butterfly will be sung by a teacher at the Sindian Senior High School, Flora Wu (吳秋萱), and the assistant director of January’s Idomeneo, Dennis Chung-kuang Lin (林中光), will sing Gianni Schicchi as well as directing both operas!
So, what on earth’s going on?
The reality is that this mix of professionals, educationalists and students and is an admirable exercise in expanding the experience of Taipei’s young. The 45-strong orchestra, all seemingly in their teens, will be flung into a public performance with some of the best of Taiwan’s opera soloists. To add to the challenge, the Butterfly part of the program is some of the most beautiful operatic music ever penned, while Gianni Schicchi follows hard on the heels of a fully-staged professional production.
All this is every reason to go along and take a look. Prices are extremely reasonable (NT$300 to NT$800). It will be semi-staged, which means full costumes but limited scenery (though it’s hard to believe that the TSO’s Gianni Schicchi set won’t for the most part be used).
And some of the soloists couldn’t be bettered anywhere in Taiwan. The production’s biggest catch is Grace Lin (林慈音) who’ll sing the crucial role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicci. But there’s also Yang Lei (楊磊), so very strong as the young lover Rinuccio for the TSO, who will sing the same part again on Monday. And Liau Chong-Boon (廖聰文) will be Sharpless, the American consul, in Madama Butterfly, as well as repeating his role of Simone in Gianni Schicchi.
All in all this looks like a performance not to be missed, and there are apparently plenty of tickets still available.
Un Bel Di — Puccini Festival is at the National Concert Hall on Monday at 7:30pm. For tickets, call (02) 2341-9898 or visit www.ticket.com.tw