Turandot

by Samuele Sodini

Turandot

Every year the Festival Pucciniano presents a series of operas on the lakefront near Puccini’s home. What makes thesse operas unique is the setting moonlight, lakeside and also the “Sculpt the Opera” project featuring local artists of international stature such as Kan Yasuda (for Butterfly) and Franco Adami ( La Fanciulla del West).
Some say that opera is the most complete of all artistic forms, because it includes all the others.
Turandot offers all the elements of traditional opera grandiosity, beautiful staging, sumptuos costumes, stock characters (called maschere in Italian) and high passion. Certainly nothing was left out of this year’s production.

The opera has a fairy tale atmosphere, with a far-away location (Peking) and Chinese princess who tries to block her suitors by presenting them with three riddles:
. What is born each night and dies each down?
. What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not a fire?
. What is like ice, but b urns like fire?

The Prince of Persia fails at the challenge and his decapitated head is presented before the throng. Only Calaf, son of deposed king and travelling incognito, can answer her questions and avoid beheading: hope is born each night and dies each dawn; blood flickers red and warm like flame but is not a fire; Turandot is like ice but burns like fire. Finally Calaf challenges Turandot “You don’t know my name. Bring me my name before sunrise, and at sunrise I will die.” In case you have not seen the opera, I won’t tell you what happens next.
Turandot has set up the challenges as an impediment to marriage to avenge her ancestor who was dishonored and killed.  She has created impossible enigmas that only love can overcome.

Extremes come together in this icy Turandot who kills her suitor, in Calaf who gives Turandot the chance to kill him in return, in the servant Liù who rather than reveal Calaf’s identity sacrifices herself out of love (shades of Dorria Manfredi). The stock characters Ping, Pang e Pong comment on the opera’s themes. Pong says ” I’ll prepare for the wedding” Pang replies and “I’ll prepare for the funeral”. Soon after, Ping sings about “il mio laghetto blu” at Honan, his peaceful home far from the court.

Who could fail to appreciate Liù (sung on opening night by Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi), gentle servant to Calaf’s father, the deposed and blind king Tumur. In her humble serf costume and in her stage movements, she is entirly believable and inspires empathy and true emotion. it is only right thet Turandot (sung by martina Serafin), the icy princess inspire some negative emotions.
“Nessun dorma” received the usual bravos, though Torre del Lago’s night air can waft away arias as lightly as brushing away mosquitoes. This time, though the stage designers got it right, blocking the back of the stage so that the music could not escape over the lake but inevitably reached the audience. A solid castle with smooth wings pushed the sound forward.

It was the first time I had seen Turandot but this is now on my “best” list one to see again and again. Next time I’ll be prepared with the libretto in hand.
As this year’s season comes to an end we can look forward to next year and once again to the Puccini favourites Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, and Tosca.
For 2011 there will also be a lesser-known opera by Leoncavallo, Mameli. Meanwhile, Lucca’s winter season begins soon at Teatro del Giglio with mozart’s Don Giovanni and Verdi’s Rigoletto.

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