Revival of 'Marco Polo' opera celebrates Sino-Italian cultural ties at Guangzhou Opera House

Historical ties and fostering the ongoing friendship between China and Italy

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The renowned opera "Marco Polo" graced the stage of the Guangzhou Opera House on May 3 and 4, drawing nearly 200 attendees from around the globe. This performance, sung in Chinese, serves as a cultural bridge, educating the audience about historical ties and fostering the ongoing friendship between China and Italy.

Marco Polo, a Venetian explorer born in the 13th century, famously traveled to China, and his chronicles in The Travels of Marco Polo ignited the first "China fever" in the West. The opera, a blend of Eastern and Western cultural elements, was crafted by an international team: Chinese poet Wei Jin penned the script, while German composer Enjott Schneider of the German Composers Association DKV composed the music. Directed by Kasper Holten, former Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, the opera premiered in 2018 at the Guangzhou Opera House. Since its debut, it has toured from Quanzhou to its "hometown" in Italy, capturing global attention.

Commemorative performances and international relevance

This year is particularly significant as it marks the 20th anniversary of the China-Italy Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the 700th death anniversary of Marco Polo himself. The revival of the opera by Shi Jingfu, director of the China National Opera House, was timely and poignant.

Gianluca Zoppa, an Italian scriptwriter, producer, director, and actor who has resided in Guangdong for many years, praised the opera post-performance: "This play not only appeals to Western aesthetics but also expands their imagination of the East." The opera's narrative—centering on the love story between Mark Polo and Chuan Yun against the backdrop of dynastic changes—symbolizes the fusion and clash of diverse cultures.

Personal resonance and broader impact

The story resonated deeply with attendees such as Tracy, a Chinese spectator, and her Venezuelan boyfriend Rei. Tracy remarked, "The opera represents the collision of different cultures, mirroring the intense yet loving relationship I share with Rei, prompting deeper reflection and emotional resonance."

Cultural dialogue and shared heritage

Before the May 4th show, a "Sharing Salon to An Encounter with Marco Polo" was hosted by GDToday at the Guangzhou Opera House. This event, aligned with the opera's revival, invited nearly 200 representatives from 29 countries, including Consulates General and Chambers of Commerce, to discuss Sino-foreign cultural exchanges. The salon featured notable artworks, including "Marco Polo's Reverie" by Italian painter Sandro Trotti and creations by Wang Shaoqiang, a Guangdong artist currently participating in La Biennale di Venezia.

Participants, including Italian Consul General in Guangzhou, Mr. Valerio De Parolis, shared insights on Marco Polo and broader China-Italy relations. "Both nations boast rich histories and cultural legacies. Our cultural exchanges and cooperation will undoubtedly strengthen the bonds between our peoples," he commented during an interview.

Historical significance of Guangdong

Guangdong province plays a pivotal role as a major hub on the Maritime Silk Road and has been a key center for East-West trade and cultural exchanges throughout history.