The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is an arts centre containing an opera house in Beijing, People's Republic of China. The Centre, an ellipsoid dome of titanium and glass surrounded by an artificial lake, seats 5,452 people in three halls and is almost 12,000 m² in size. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.
The exterior of the theater is a titanium-accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake. It is said to look like an egg floating on water, or a water drop. It was designed as an iconic feature, something that would be immediately recognizable.
The dome measures 212 meters in east–west direction, 144 meters in north–south direction, and is 46 meters high. The main entrance is at the north side. Guests arrive in the building after walking through a hallway that goes underneath the lake. The titanium shell is broken by a glass curtain in north–south direction that gradually widens from top to bottom.
The location, immediately to the west of Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People, and near the Forbidden City, combined with the theatre's futuristic design, created considerable controversy. Paul Andreu countered that although there is indeed value in ancient traditional Chinese architecture, Beijing must also include modern architecture, as the capital of the country and an international city of great importance. His design, with large open space, water, trees, was specially designed to complement the red walls of ancient buildings and the Great Hall of the People, in order to melt into the surroundings as opposed to standing out against them.
Internally, there are three major performance halls:
The Opera Hall is used for operas, ballet, and dances and seats 2,416 people.
The Music Hall is used for concerts and recitals and seats 2,017 people.
The Theatre Hall is used for plays and the Beijing opera. It has 1,040 seats.
The NCPA also distributes filmed and recorded performances of its concerts, plays and operas through the in-house label NCPA Classics, established in 2016.
The initial planned cost of the theatre was 2.688 billion yuan. When the construction had completed, the total cost rose to more than CNY3.2 billion. The major cause of the cost increase was a delay for reevaluation and subsequent minor changes as a precaution after a Paris airport terminal building collapsed. The cost has been a major source of controversy because many believed that it is nearly impossible to recover the investment. When the cost is averaged out, each seat is worth about half a million CNY. The Chinese government answered that the theater is not a for profit venture.
The government sanctioned study completed in 2004 by the Research Academy of Economic & Social Development of the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, of the upkeep costs of the building were publicized in domestic Chinese media:
The water and electricity bills and the cleaning cost for the external surface would be at least tens of millions CNY, and with another maintenance cost, the total could easily exceed one billion CNY. Therefore, at least 80 percent of the annual operational costs must be subsidized by the government for at least the first three years after the opening, and for the rest of its operational life, at least 60 percent of the annual operational cost must be subsidized by the government.
The director of the art committee of the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the standing committee member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Mr Wu Zuqiang (吴祖强) and the publicist / deputy director of the National Centre for the Performing Arts Mr Deng (邓一江) have announced that 70 percent of the tickets would be sold at low price for ordinary citizens, while 10% of the tickets would be sold at relatively expensive prices for separate market segments, and the 60% of annual operating cost needed to be subsidized by the government would be divided between the central government and the Beijing municipal government.