Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Arriving at night was a fantasy, swallowed by the giant terminal complex and disgorged into the brilliant city, across a literal rainbow bridge, the air heavy and textured in the lingering summer heat and humidity. Dense (but nothing like Toky0), sophisticated, priapic, impatient, persistent, confident, and aiming for 30% green space with visible success - an exploding modernism, the crucible of the past just recognisable.

The Shanghai Grand Theatre (Jean-Marie Charpentier 1998) sits in the Peoples Park, close by the Shanghai Art Museum.

It is impressively free standing, dominated by the concave-up roof complex, like a birdbath, for very big birds. Foyer spaces are spacious if short on bar facilities, the catering for the Ring (crammed into four days with a maximum of 30 minute intervals between Acts) organised by a nearby hotel. The main theatre of 1800 seats feels imtimate, with a good pit and a fabulously big stage, an enormous space with a lovely balance to the dimensions. We weren't ever exposed to the full height of the proscenium, so high was it. You could glimpse the vast wings, and the depth, used to great effect in the march into Valhalla, or rather, the nuclear winter blizzard, but more of that later, was mightily impressive. We need one in our little Valhalla down here. A decent stage I mean, not a nuclear winter.

I'll post on the Ring shortly, but in a serious quelle scandale moment, Our Man in Shanghai reports via woodbird that Stig Andersen, the Siegfried Siegfried, has been relieved of his duties for the second run. What can you say? - it is the killer role, so to speak. The Siegfried was by far the least successful of the tetralogy, dragged down by glacial tempi from Markus Stenz, (along with a leaden Walkure love duet), not helped by Siegfried looking like Mime's grandfather (only half his fault), some pretty lumpy stage directions with some attention to the text but little to the music, and sung at full belt with little subtlety. By the time we got to The Awakening, everyone, including Stig by the sound of the voice, was glad it was over. But he got through it, and while that's not necessarily always good enough, it was just that in this instance.

I had heard him sing both Siegmund and Siegfried in Gotterdammerung in Budapest two years ago, and he acquitted himself well enough. He does carry the title of 'Kammersanger' of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen and I find it all unfortunate. He was booed, which was alarming to those not used to such boorish behaviour, such that I wondered out loud if this was some strange Chinese accolade. Apparently not.

I was about to say that Shanghai was totally fantastic although we didn't fly through the air with Vangelis in our ears, but in fact we did, no Vangelis though. We took the Maglev (MAGnetic LEVitation) train from the city out to the airport, a 50 minute taxi ride reduced to 8 minutes, peak speed 431 kmph. For A$10!

Want to do it? Here you go:

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