Even by Chinese standards, Guangzhou’s transformation from a gritty industrial port into a gleaming metropolis for Chinese culture has been lightning-fast. Now, China’s third-largest city, just 130 miles north of Hong Kong, has been raising its arts profile. The most striking example? A new cultural complex overlooking the Pearl River that includes a museum, a library, and the dazzling Guangzhou Opera House designed by Zaha Hadid. The contoured structure, with its 1,804-seat auditorium and a smaller black-box theater in conjoined granite-clad wings, was inspired by a pair of boulders worn smooth by water. The highlight of the inaugural season: the first Guangzhou Arts Festival, with performances by Spain’s National Ballet (Sept. 23–24), the Vienna Boys’ Choir (Oct. 15), and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Dec. 30–31).