Opera Australia’s production of Turandot, playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, is a truly spectacular theatrical experience.
Originally created by director/choreographer Graeme Murphy nearly 30 years ago, this revival production (directed by Kim Walker) features magnificent costumes, imaginative staging and brilliant choreography.
Then, of course, there are the performers who include American soprano Lise Lindstrom as Turandot, Italian tenor Walter Fraccaro as Calàf and Korean soprano Karah Son as Liù.
And there’s the chance to hear some of Giacomo Puccini’s and opera’s most famous arias including Nessun dorma.
Turandot is the story of a beautiful and brutal Chinese princess, who challenges her many suitors to answer three riddles. If they fail to answer correctly they die. No one has ever succeeded. Calàf is a brave, selfish prince from a different land, who watches the princess command the beheading of a rival suitor and falls instantly in love. Despite the wishes of his exiled father and the pleas of Liù, a slave-girl who loves him, he declares his wish to marry Turandot. She presents her riddles, and in triumph, the unknown prince answers. Turandot despairs and the prince takes pity – offering the ice-cold princess a riddle of his own. But Calaf’s riddle ends in tragedy, with the death of the faithful Liù.
It’s easy to see why Lindstrom is considered one of the `world’s best’ Turandots. Both musically and her on-stage presence suggests she is very comfortable in the role. At the same time the biggest cheers on opening night came for Son’s brilliant acting and singing. Audience applause also suggested Calàf hit the right notes, especially in presenting Nessun dorma.
Other stand-out performances included John Longmuir, Virgilio Marino and Christopher Hillier as Pong, Pang and Ping, Turandot’s ministers who add comic relief to this tale of love and death. The staging, which accompanies their performances, is dramatic.
Graeme Macfarlane as the Emperor and Richard Anderson as Calàf’s ageing, blind and exiled father, also give strong performances.
The Opera Australia chorus and Children’s chorus are brilliant both in voice and in the presentation of Murphy’s often complex choreography. This choreography sees the leads, chorus, dancers and extras in continual motion – either by moving their bodies or with props which include swords, ribbons, fans and fabric.
It’s this colourful staging, the magnificent voices and the music from the Christian Badea-led Orchestra Victoria which ensures Turandot offers an unforgettable night at the opera.
Turandot is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre until December 6. Visit Opera Australia’s website for more information.
*Photo credit: Jeff Busby.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Turandot as a guest of Opera Australia.
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