Turandot (2nd production)

Did Puccini ever visit China? No. He had to learn and appropriate ideas from secondary sources like newspapers and music boxes to imagine a fantasy China. I have visited the real China, well at least the tourist trodden.

My trip was an art teacher’s dream. To see the Terra Cotta Warriors (Emporer Qinshihuang’s life sized army of people, horses, and charriots) sculpted and fired in 210 BCE was a true pilgrimage. Just me and my lonely planet book half way around the world. The bus from Xian to Shaanxsi is full of locals who pull out colorful plastic stools to use in the isle after the seats are taken.

It has been a long day traveling by time I arrive and I’m not having the experience I dreamed. These are the ever living freakin terracotta warriors… but I’m tired. I take out my sketchbook and begin drawing the figures I see. I love drawing. It’s a great tool to connect to the world and help see things I might otherwise miss. It slows me down and focuses my attention. A unique experience for sure before heading back to Xian to ride bicycles atop the wall that surrounds the city. Speaking of walls.

The title character from Puccini’s opera has put up some pretty tall emotional walls around herself, and that wall is surrounded by the decapitated heads of men who have courted her. She has good reasons to feel the way she does, but they have also turned her into someone she really isn’t at her core. Enter Prince Calaf who is reunited with his vanquished father the King of Tartary and his faithful servant Liu’. Liu’ might be the most sympathetic character in the opera and has some gorgeous singing moments during the opera. Calaf falls for Turandot at first sight and will risk his own life to answer Turandot’s three riddles that if he guesses will secure her marriage and if he doesn’t will lose his head.

I appreciate tightly paired down and modest operas. However, there is something to be said for the sublime, ostentatious, gaudy, maximum grandeur of a Zeffirelli production that sends me walking out of the theater like a pampered spoiled 16th century French King.

**A Franco Zeffirelli production, so it was big, with huge depth of field and intricacy and gold glitter showering at the end. The chorus as always was a standout. Perfect audience around us with good view and same seats as Carmelites, but unfortunately under the balcony, but for $25 to see Yannick conduct. He holds or stretches the notes to the point they might break but holds a tension of timing that commands my attention. I could see him mouthing the song at the end while muscling his arms to and fro.

*A sad trivia is that Puccini passed away before he finished the opera and while their were enough of an outline to be finished for him, endearingly on the night of its first performance the conductor Toscanini put down his baton and said,  “Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died.” His last notes are a flute that hangs in the air above the orchestra after Liu’ sings her last aria.

Listen for:

Nessun dorma (the name song) is one of those popular ones where you’d here the 3 tenors do it. It is beautiful song and eventually the music swells above his high voice where the emotion takes over the intellect of the moment. 

Notes on the production

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Composer………………………. Giacomo Puccini

Turandot…………………………. Christine Goerke

Calaf…………………………..…… Yusif Eyvazov

Liú ……………………………………Eleonara Buratto

Timur……………………………….James Morris

Conductor………………………Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Metropolitan Opera

10/9/19