Fri, Apr 15, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Nights at the museum

The Tainan Arts Festival will wrap up in mid-June with two outdoor concerts at the Chimei Museum that will feature a selection of classic Western opera arias and songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Italian soprano Maria Pia Piscitelli will perform at two special nighttime concerts at the Chimei Museum in Tainan on June 11 and June 12 as part of the Tainan Arts Festival.

Photo Courtesy of the Tainan City Government

Zagreb-born writer and illustrator Milan Trenc opened up a new world for museums with his 1993 children’s book The Night at the Museum, which told the story of a night watchman at New York City’s Museum of Natural History and his discovery that the dinosaur skeletons come alive at night.

The book became the basis for the 2006 film Night at the Museum and a resulting franchise, but it also inspired many museums to open their facilities up for nighttime visits, talks and explorations.

So it seems fitting that Tainan’s newest tourist attraction, the 14-month-old Chimei Museum, should team up with the city’s Cultural Affairs Bureau and Tainan Municipal Cultural Center artistic director Allen Yu (余能盛) for two nighttime concerts of Western opera highlights. After all, the museum in the Tainan Metropolitan Park boasts one of the largest collections of violins in the world, as well as other musical instruments, Western art and weaponry.

The “Museum Night, Opera Highlights” (博物館之夜‧歌劇選粹) concerts on June 11 and June 12 will be the culmination of this year’s three-month-long Tainan Arts Festival, which opened on March 26, and the highlight of the five-year-old festival’s “International Classics” series.

The producer for the two concerts is the Tainan-born, Austria-based choreographer Yu, who was named last year as the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center’s first artistic director.

Yu, who resigned as deputy ballet director and choreographer at the Graz Opera House to devote more time to the center and his Formosa Ballet (福爾摩沙芭蕾舞團), formerly known as the Chamber Ballet Taipei (台北室內芭蕾舞團), is using the contacts he developed over the decades he has worked at opera houses and festivals in Europe to bring more international guest artists to Tainan.

Yu said a gala evening of opera arias is a good way to introduce Taiwanese audiences to Western opera because mounting full productions is so expensive and most local theaters lack the experience to do so.

In selecting the arias for the concert, Yu said he picked the most famous ones from several well-known operas, but also ones that are the most difficult technically for the performers.

“Some are very emotional, some are very character-oriented, like Ariel Olympia [from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman], which most Taiwanese don’t known. I want to slowly introduce lesser-known operas to Taiwan. Even if many people have heard of the songs, they don’t know the operas that they come from,” Yu said yesterday.

The program runs the gamut from serious opera classics such as Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja and Queen of the Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca, Figaro’s Aria from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot to a selection from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, including Memory, The Music of Night and Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.

The singers include Greek tenor Demos Flemotomos, Italian soprano Maria Pia Piscitelli, Austrian soprano Beate Ritter, Georgian mezzo-soprano Stella Grigorian and Dutch baritone Wiard Witholt.

Dutch conductor Antony Hermus — who worked with the Yu on his 2012 ballet Romance — The Music and The Destiny of Tchaikovsky (羅曼史~柴可夫斯基的音樂與人生) and two previous productions, will conduct the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra (長榮交響樂團). The Tainan Mu-Ling Bel Canto Choir (台南牧靈美聲合唱團) will provide the backup chorus and the Formosa Ballet will also perform two short pieces.

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