The national theater affectionately known as 'The Egg' celebrates its fifth birthday. Chen Jie reports the institution is still growing.Yang Shuang will never forget the late night jazz concert by Frankfurt Radio Bigband at the National Center for the Performing Arts on May 26. When she walked out of the concert hall, with her boyfriend Zhang Ran, he suddenly knelt down, roses in hand, and proposed marriage to her. Every year, NCPA presents a jazz concert at 10:30 pm as a special ending for the May Festival, and after the concert there is a cocktail party for musicians and guests. Zhang thought it a perfect opportunity. "I wanted to give her a special proposal. Late night jazz is romantic," says the 27-year-old acoustics engineer, part of NCPA's stage crew. "NCPA has a slogan, 'Art changes life'. When I thought about proposing marriage, I wanted to change my life here."
Comedian Guo Degang is laughing all the way to the bank as his cross-talk empire internationalizes.
Chen, who will turn 59 in January, worked at a construction material company in Beijing for eight years in the 1970s. His love for music inspired him to teach himself the accordion and the music department of the culture center of Dongcheng district recruited him in 1979. He was appointed director of the culture center in 1985 and director of the culture bureau of Dongcheng district in 1991.
Thus, art led him into a political career for 16 years, heading various bureaus of the municipal government until, in February 2007, Liu Qi, then Party chief of Beijing, appointed him to head the newly built NCPA. He returned to art again.
"I really didn't expect it. I was Party chief of Dongcheng district and full of ambitious plans to develop the district," Chen says.
But he fretted because he knew it was a big challenge.
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Soon after New China was founded in 1949, the late premier Zhou Enlai chose the location at the west of Tian'anmen Square to build a national theater. But for a number of reasons, construction did not begin until December 2001 and it took almost six years to finish.
At the beginning, Beijingers did not like the egg shape or "bubble", designed by the French architect Paul Andreu.
"People also doubted whether we had enough shows to fill the four theaters and whether we had enough audiences," Chen says