Zaha Hadid in Guangzhou

A spectacular new opera house photographed by Roland Halbe.

On the banks of the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Zaha Hadid 's long-awaited Opera House cuts a striking silhouette in the former docks of this buzzing Chinese City. Opening to the public on 24th February, the Opera House is at the heart of Guangzhou's cultural riverside development, which includes the Canton Tower by Information Based Architecture. The 7,000 sqm, €77m structure is divided into twin boulder-like forms that bring together two adjacent opera houses and museum sites that form this newly developed part of the city. The auditorium is housed in one block and the restaurant, bars and shops in the other. If the exterior shell is somewhat muted and craggy in its shades of silvery grey, the interiors are quite the other end of the spectrum. The walls of the main theatre are bellowing ribbons of gold dotted with fragmented lights. Corridors are a dramatic composition of tessellated triangular glazing and sweeping swathes of concrete. Liu Xiaolu, a Guangzhou Opera spokesman, told the New York Times : "In a short period of time it has changed the cultural scene here, which was relatively limited until recently. Before it was just Beijing and Shanghai. Major international productions – whether it was opera or pop music – would pass right over us and go straight to Hong Kong. We just didn't have the venues. We didn't even have a stage large enough to fit all the swans in Swan Lake . Now it's Guangzhou's turn."
The building has been open for some events. In its first two months, the house put on three fully staged operas, all of which were well attended, the first show was Puccini's Turandot . One of the Tenors in that opera, Richard Margison, has been reported as confirming the quality of the auditorium. "The auditorium itself is pretty big inside, but still has an intimate feeling. I must also say that the acoustic is fantastic – not too dry and not too bright." The building marks Guangzhou's tenure as host of the Asia Games and the millions of dollars were pumped into the preparations including a new Guangzhou museum and a whole new landscaped quarter underlines this ambitious city's drive not just to bring in tourism and money from its Pearl River Delta neighbours Hong Kong and Shenzhen, but to become a major Asian city in itself. Beatrice Galilee
Guangzhou Opera House
Architect : Zaha Hadid Architects
Design : Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher
Project director : Woody K.T. Yao
Project leader : Simon Yu
Project team : Jason Guo, Yang Jingwen, Long Jiang, Ta-Kang Hsu, Yi-Ching Liu, Zhi Wang, Christine Chow, Cyril Shing, Filippo Innocenti, Lourdes Sanchez, Hinki Kwong, Junkai Jiang
Competition team (1st stage) : Filippo Innocenti, Matias Musacchio, Jenny Huang, Hon Kong Chee, Markus Planteu, Paola Cattarin, Tamar Jacobs, Yael Brosilovski, Viggo Haremst, Christian Ludwig, Christina Beaumont, Lorenzo Grifantini, Flavio La Gioia, Nina Safainia, Fernando Vera, Martin Henn, Achim Gergen, Graham Modlen, Imran Mahmood
Competition team (2nd stage) : Cyril Shing, YanSong Ma, Yosuke Hayano, Adriano De Gioannis, Barbara Pfenningstorff
Client : Guangzhou Municipal Government

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