BWW Review: TURANDOT at Sarasota Opera
Turandot is an opera in three acts written by Giacomo Puccini and completed by Franco Alfano. It is set to a libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Puccini was being treated for cancer and seemed on the road to remission when a heart attack took his life in 1924, before he could finish this work. Adami completed Turandot two years later.
The former Italian diplomat to China, Baron Fassini Camossi, gifted Puccini with a music box, which played a several Chinese melodies. Puccini used three of them in Turandot, including the national anthem played during the appearance of Emperor Altoum.
Turandot is a Persian word meaning "the daughter of Turan". Turan was a region in Central Asia that was a part of the Persian Empire. Known for its iconic aria "Nessun dorma", opulent costumes, and lavish set designs, Turandot takes place in China where Prince Calaf falls in love with the "Ice Princess" Turandot (Kara Shay Thomson).
Vowing to forever pay homage to an ancestor who was betrayed by the man she loved, who took her into the woods and killed her, Turandot has no plans for marriage. In order to be granted permission to marry her, a royal suitor must solve three riddles. Beheading awaits the beau with the incorrect answer. When Prince Calaf (Jonathan Burton) solves the riddle, Turandot is shocked and refuses to marry him. He offers her a way out of marriage stating if she can find out his name before dawn of the next day, he will willingly die for her.
This all takes place under the watchful eye of Turandot's father Emperor Altoum (Richard Russell). Kara Shay Thomson as the Princess Turandot is stunning. She has one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard. Her countenance physically changed from cold to hot when she allowed her feelings for Prince Calaf to melt her icy heart.
Jonathan Burton gave a fine performance as Calaf and nailed "Nessum dorma" to a big round of applause. Young Bok Kim as Timur, Calaf's father, the deposed Tartar king, was played with compassion and fragility. Anna Mandina beautifully played Liù, the slave girl who took her own life claiming she knew Calaf's name but would never reveal it because of her deep love for him.
Richard Russell as Emperor Altoum was a special treat for Sarasota audiences who know him as the Executive Director of Sarasota Opera. His carriage was regal and we got to enjoy that beautiful voice we don't get to hear very often. Adding some levity to the opera, the three ministers, Ping (Filippo Fontana), Pang (Samuel Schlievert) and Pong (Ganson Salmon) sang about funerals and weddings they would be planning, while lamenting over the homes they left behind. They longed for the days before Turandot's bloody rule.
Producing an opera of this magnitude is no small task. There is a lot of movement throughout the production and each member of the large cast has an important role to play and special mark to hit. Director of Stephanie Sundine drew an abundance of expression and emotion out of her cast. The extravagant orchestrations under the masterful baton of Conductor Victor DeRenzi were brilliant. Equally brilliant were the stunning sets by Scenic designer Michael Schweikardt and gorgeous costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan. Ken Yunker's lighting techniques crowned this splendid production.
If you only see one opera this year, don't miss the compelling story and exquisite production of Turandot.
Turandot runs through March 22, 2019. Visit www.sarasotaopera.org for specific dates and times.