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An opera experience that is refreshingly up-temple

The COC presents Semele.

Karl Forster/Karl Forster

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that Ming. The Canadian Opera Company's season-closing production of George Frideric Handel's Semele has a unique centrepiece – a ornately carved temple from the Ming Dynasty. Since 2007, the Buddhist building has been the property of the celebrated visual/performance artist Zhang Huan, who is the production's director and designer. Here are some facts and what-have-yous relating to the 16th-century onstage shrine.

– The temple was discovered by Mr. Zhang in China's Zhejiang province. He then had it moved, piece by piece, to his studio in the country's largest city. In doing so, the temple was literally and figuratively shanghaied.

– Two massive cargo containers were required to ship the temple to North America from China.

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– Made of camphor wood, the structure weighs approximately 15 tonnes and measures an estimated 40-by-40-by-23 feet.

– Temple reconstruction takes approximately 32 hours, involving a dozen stagehands and a specially built crane.

– A custom rolling platform (made of steel supports and a plywood flooring) was built to move the temple aside when other productions are onstage.

Brad Wheeler

Semele is presented May 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 26. $12 to $318 ($22 tickets are available for people under the age of 30). Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.,, 416-363-8231.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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