• Theatres

2 Xi Chang'an Jie

Opened in December 2007 (after a decade of delays) the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) prides itself on having a mandate for educating the public (which they do) and pledging to offer affordable tickets (maybe someday).

Eighty per cent of its audience has never seen a show before, but everyone wants to see the inside of ‘The Egg’ (as it is colloquially known). The mobs at the lobby’s metal detectors recall an airport at Christmas (don’t bring a camera), but the massive domed ceiling is like a modern-day Pantheon, and the corridor is – for three seasons anyway – covered with actual water.

This awe wanes a bit, however, inside the individual venues. Although technically perfect, the opera house’s horseshoe-shaped stage is deep but narrow, making some groups look cramped. Sadly, NCPA's mint-green concert hall is the bane of any musician who loves good acoustics – don’t sit behind the stage unless it’s a full orchestra, solo voices are lost.

Audiences range from sophisticated (foreign orchestras) to the not-so sophisticated (chamber concerts, Chinese language theatre); the chatter and plastic-bag white noise may drive you screaming into the street.

Still, it has the best shows in town, and represents what we hope is China’s concrete commitment to its many talented artists.

Venue name: NCPA
Opening hours: Theatres open daily. Exhibition area open 9am-5pm, daily.
English address: 2 Xi Chang'an Jie, Xicheng district
Chinese address: 西城区长安街2号
  • 4 out of 5 stars