The newly opened National Center for the Performance Arts, formerly named the Chinese National Grand Theatre, is the largest performing art center in the world. It is shaped like a massive, silvery dome in the heart of China's capital that offers Chinese and international art performances of the highest standards. It hosts opera, ballet, musicals, dance, dramas, and traditional Chinese performances.
Situated west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the National Center for Performance Art occupies an area of over 149,500 square meters. There are three gigantic halls located inside: a 2,416-seat opera house, a 2,017-seat concert hall and a 1,040-seat theater. Its goal is to become the center of Chinese performance art culture. The National Center for the Performing Arts took nearly five years to build at a cost of over 2.69million CNY.
Designed by the famous French architect Paul Andreu, this imposing building is a fine example of modern architecture. It has been thought of as resembling an eggshell, a baozi (Chinese steamed bread), or even a giant bubble. The National Center for Performance Arts has been listed among the top ten architectural miracles by the USA, for its energy-saving and environmentally-sound design. The center has three firsts: it is the largest skydome in the world, the deepest building in Beijing, and is home to the largest pine organ in Asia. As its promoters have said, the National Center for Performance Arts has a lush dazzling interior, sophisticated acoustics, and a design that that is superior to most of Europe's or America's performing arts centers. This building is so unique that it stands out amongst the nearby government buildings in central Beijing and the imperial grandeur of the centuries-old Forbidden City.
The interior design of the National Center for Performance Arts, it is quite spectacular. The dome's interior is paneled with long Brazilian mahogany spans, giving the expanse an amazingly warm feeling. While the walls of the theater, the smallest of the performance spaces, are covered in thickly padded silk which is divided into red, purple and tangerine stripes. The ceiling of the grey-white color-schemed concert hall consists of undulating waves of acoustical panels that resemble abstract art. On the exterior shell of the center, there are over 500 lights that shine like the stars in the sky, making the National Center for Performance Arts looks like a visitor from the outer space.
Even though the exterior appearance of the National Centre for Performance Arts is futuristic in design, it does not clash with nearby buildings. Surrounded on one side by a large pool of water, the reflections in the water form an impressive sight day or night. For this reason, the National Centre for Performance Arts is said to appear like a "bright pearl resting in a lake", which should not be missed in your Beijing tours.
Most visitors to the National Center for Performance Arts, come for the performances, but there is much more to this beautiful building than just the three gigantic halls. There are also many smaller places located inside the National Center for Performance Arts such as an underwater hallway, an exhibition hall, olive hall, library center, Press-release hall, souvenir shop, and a coffee house. In these locations, visitors or audience members can enjoy other aspects of this amazing building other than just performances.
The Center's management has hired the best performers from throughout China to perform. Musicians such as pianist Yundi Li and Lang Lang are regulars to the National Center for Performance Arts' stage. Many foreign troupes are vying for a chance to perform during the center's opening season. The first foreign troupe to perform on the stage of the National Center for Performance Art was the Mariinsky Ballet Troup of St. Petersburg (still marketed in the U.S. under its Soviet-era name, the Kirov Opera and Ballet). Although the center's musical groups, ballets, symphony orchestras, and Chinese opera have received far less attention, they are also performed by some of the best artists in China.
To allow each audience to fully and comfortably appreciate each performance, the National Center for Performance Arts has made a great effort in its design of the opera house, concert hall, and theater. The materials used in the construction of the opera house were chosen for their ability to control sound. The ceiling of the concert hall is designed so that each audience member will enjoy an unforgettable experience. The theatre, the place with the most distinctive Chinese characteristic, has the most advanced stage facilities and the largest auditorium. Each seat in the National Center for Performance Arts is placed over an air vent which will allow each audience member to enjoy perfectly controlled temperatures, and each seat is designed with a muffling device so that no sound will be made when audience members stand up or sit down. These different features of the center have been put in place to ensure each audience member will receive the most from each performance they see.
Even if visitors doing Beijing tours have no interest in watching a performance at the National Centre for Performance Arts, a visit to the center will leave a deep impression on them. It is one of the most brilliant architectural designs in the world, and worth a visit.
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