National Taichung Theater brings performance venue to central Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) Central Taiwan's first opera house opened Sunday with a grand ceremony to inaugurate what Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai called "the pride of Taichung." Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the eye-catchingly modern National Taichung Theater boasts a 2,014-seat grand theater, a 800-seat theater and a 200-seat black box. The architecturally complex theater was an engineering challenge constructed entirely without beams or columns and relying instead on 58 curved wall units. It is believed to be the first theater in the world to employ such a construction technique. While the outside walls appear to be smooth surfaces thanks to the installation of glass windows, the basic structure itself is a series of tubular voids connected together. Called a "sound cave" by Ito, the state-of-the-art opera house took nearly 5 years to complete at a cost of NT$4.36 billion (US$141 million). President Ma Ying-jeou, who attended the inauguration ceremony, expressed hope that the theater will help his administration reach its goal of "rejuvenating the country through culture." He gave credit to Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, who is up for reelection next week, for turning the daunting architectural challenge into a reality. Culture Minister Lung, meanwhile, thanked the workers who helped construct the building along with city government employees. A series of performances by prominent local groups will take place at the opera house starting this month to celebrate its inauguration. The series begins Sunday with a production of "Cat Man" by Taiwanese opera troupe Ming Hwa Yuan Arts and Cultural Group. Paper Windmill Theatre will then perform its production of "Don Quixote" Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, which will be followed by a concert by Taiwanese violinist Hu Nai-yuan and the Taiwan Connection Chamber Orchestra on Dec. 7. Ju Percussion Group will then give a performance on Dec. 13. The National Taichung Theater is part of the government's efforts to strengthen support for and improve the quality and international competitiveness of Taiwan's performing arts. It is being touted as a leg of the "golden triangle" for the performing arts in Taiwan, alongside Taipei's National Theater and Concert Hall and Kaohsiung's Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts, the latter of which is set to be completed next year. The Ministry of Culture will take over the operation of the National Taichung Theater starting in January next year. (By Christie Chen and Hau Hsueh-chin)