Beijing faces the music over cancelled opera

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2011, 12:00am


The last-minute cancellation in Beijing of the premiere of an opera about modern China's founding father, Dr Sun Yat-sen, has struck a sour note in arts circles and sparked rumours that the move is politically motivated.

Dr Sun Yat-sen - produced by Opera Hong Kong, which spent four years preparing the piece - was set for its world premiere on September 30 at the Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts.

But Min Wong, Hong Kong opera's general manager, said it was called off just weeks before its debut. 'We received a notification from the centre early this month that the performance would have to be postponed due to logistical reasons.'

Warren Mok, the troupe's artistic director and the tenor singing the title role, said it was postponed until 'some time next year'.

Several publications, including The Art Journal in London, speculated that the reason for the postponement was political censorship. This view was supported by Karsten Witt music management in Berlin, which represents the opera's composer, Huang Ruo. It said the Western-instrument production was 'cancelled ... due to political reasons'.

Music critic Norman Lebrecht said: 'One senior official decided there and then that the music was 'too modern' for senior [Communist] Party cadres, who were due to attend the opera, which marks the centenary of the Chinese Republic.'

Wong dismissed this allegation, saying they had to delay the show because the premiere fell around the National Day holiday. 'This opera is more about Sun Yat-sen's love story than revolution, and the music is lovely. So the content should be problem-free,' she said, adding the delay would cause losses.

The opera will now be premiered in Hong Kong on October 13.

A Leisure and Cultural Services Department spokesman said it was notified 10 days ago, but refused to comment on the reason.