BWW Reviews: Opera Australia's Presentation Of Puccini's Love Story TURANDOT Is a Feast For The Senses

Tuesday 30th June 2015, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Puccini's TURANDOT tells the story of the risks a Prince will take to win the love of a cold hearted Princess with soaring music and a generous dose of humor. Opera Australia's production blends Puccini's famous music with striking costumes and elements of Chinese Opera to encourage the audience to imagine an Imperial China filled with crowds waiting for the execution of the latest suitor to fail the Princess' challenge.

Director Graeme Murphy has created a visually spectacular performance where the opulence of the Imperial Palace and its inhabitants is contrasted with the intimidating severity of the guards and executioners and the simplicity of the citizens. The costumes, colour blocked by character type, combined with the magnitude of the company that fills the sparsely dressed stage creates stunning visuals and inventive use of props such as giant scrolls adds variety and humor to the moment. The excess of the period is exaggerated, in keeping with the story being fantasy fairytale rather than reality with Princess Turandot gliding around on a risen platform, as the towering figure of the Emperor, oversees proceedings from his position high above the masses with his imperial yellow robes flowing the impressive distance to the floor.

Princess Turandot's (Lise Lindstrom) latest suitor, Calaf, is presented wonderfully by tenor Yonghoon Lee. With a rich strength he sings of Calaf's infatuation with the Princess that has a reputation for ordering the execution of all her suitors as they all fail her challenge to answer 3 riddles. Despite Turandot being described as "Pale as Jade, cold as the blade" Calaf decides he wants to try to win her hand as he falls in love with her perfume, ignoring that the slave girl Liu (Hyeseoung Kwon), faithful servant to his father, Timur (Jud Arthur), has been in love with him since he once smiled at her many years ago. Lee presents Calef with the requisite determination of his love whilst the Ministers Ping (Luke Gabbedy), Pong (John Longmuir) and Pang (Graeme Macfarlane) amusingly try to dissuade him and expose the absurdity of the quest. Lee's interpretation of the famous Nessun Dorma is powerful and clear as he tells Princess that she will not sleep trying to discover his identity and he will win her love.

Turandot's aria In Questa Reggia is moving as Lindstrom conveys the Princess' reasons for her distain and distrust of men who want to marry her, capturing her desire for revenge for her ill-treated ancestor. Liu's aria Tu che di gel sei cinta expresses her love and devotion for Calaf and loyalty to Timur with innocent purity.

The Ministers provide a lightness and humor to the macabre story that includes crowds calling for the severed head of the moon to rise and the latest execution to be ordered. The Ministers provide the voice of reason as they try to convince Calaf to give up his pursuit. The trio blends the comedy with the ridiculousness of the situation as they prepare for a funeral and a wedding and reminisce on the peaceful lives they had before serving at the palace and the potential demise of China as Turandot refuses to marry.

This somewhat bizarre story of the princess with the heart of ice and the prince with insane love and desire to possess her is presented as a visual and aural feast. Puccini's score has light and darkness and conductor Christian Badea ensures that the orchestra and singers capture the texture and contrast of the work to show the battle between love and bloodthirsty revenge.

The well-paced, beautifully interpreted score, combined with the easy to follow storyline makes TURANDOT an accessible work for those wanting to get their first taste of Opera and a delight for regular patrons.


Opera Australia

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

24 June - 28 August 2015.

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From This Author Jade Kops

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