“The Diaries of John Rabe” tells the story of the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians during the Japanese-Chinese War of 1937/38 by a small group of Nanking’s international residents, led by German businessman John Rabe.
Although he was a member of the NSDAP party, Rabe acted as a pacifist and has since been regarded as China’s Oskar Schindler. Tang Jianping’s opera pays tribute to the touching and authentic events of China’s recent history and John Rabe’s role as a humanitarian rescuer by establishing a security zone.

The Jiangsu Centre for Performing Arts presents “The Diaries of John Rabe” for the first time on a European tour.

“The real strength of the opera lies in the score by Tang Jianping, which possesses real emotional depth with subtle quotes from Bach.” (Financial Times)

In 2009 Florian Gallenberger filmed Rabes’ moving story, starring Ulrich Tukur.


Contemporary music has the reputation of sometimes sounding clumsy and inaccessible to the “average ear”. This judgment does not apply to the score of Tang Jianping’s opera “The Diaries of John Rabe”. In this work, Tang masterfully created a broad, catchy orchestral sound that evokes associations with romantic as well as classical film music and is accompanied by melodic vocal lines.

In his “Opera Glass” review of a Beijing performance, Stephan Burianek praised the vocal quality as “extremely pleasing”, the orchestra under conductor Xu Zhong, who is the director of the Shanghai Opera House, also sounds “excellent and extremely precise”. According to the critic, this production bears witness to the “remarkable level of quality” that China’s opera houses are now capable of achieving.