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L.A. OPERA — TURANDOT

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TURANDOT

By Yann Perreau

Everyone knows “Nessun Dorma,” one of the best-known tenor arias in opera. When sung by Russell Thomas (Calaf) in the current LA Opera engagement of Turandot, the audience breaks out with enthusiastic applause, a rare gesture reserved for those truly magical moments performed by the greats. Here at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, loud clapping and shouts punctuate the three acts of this breathtakingly high-quality production and performance. The plot is familiar: In old Peking, Princess Turandot will only marry a man who can solve her three riddles. All who come up short must die, and dozens of heroes—captivated by the princess’s beauty—have already been decapitated after failing to conquer her. Calaf—il principe ignoto (the unknown prince)—falls in love at first sight with the cold princess, possessed by her perfume and incredible beauty. When he states his intention to pass the test, shouting Turandot’s name three times at the close of Act 1, tension and torn emotions move through the audience.

This co-production of the San Francisco Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago is unique, a splendid spectacle for many reasons. It brings back to the stage David Hockney’s iconic set, providing a stunning backdrop that enhances the grandeur of the work. Designed in the 1990s, when Hockney reinvented perspective in his paintings, they have a broken mirror / cubist dimension, bringing the eye to the city’s labyrinth, a metaphor of the raw, puzzling feelings at the opera’s heart. Bold geometric forms and colors with pop and even punk affect create an otherworldly city that perfectly complements the mythical story. The equally magnificent costumes by the late Ian Falconer are a testament to meticulous attention—the intricate embroidery, rich fabrics, and vibrant hues bring each character to life, adding depth to their portrayals.

Thomas delivers a powerhouse performance, his robust tenor voice effortlessly capturing the emotional intensity and passion of his character. Angela Meade’s Turandot is just as mesmerizing, her soprano voice soaring with clarity and strength. Her portrayal of the icy princess is both commanding and nuanced, conveying the inner turmoil and eventual transformation of her character with remarkable skill.

James Conlon’s brilliant direction of the orchestra brings Puccini’s score to life with precision and sensitivity. Under his baton, the music swells and recedes with perfect timing, heightening the drama and enhancing the emotional impact of each scene until the climax of Act Three’s conclusion. This production is a must-see for opera enthusiasts and newcomers alike, offering a blend of visual and musical artistry that will linger in the memory long after the final curtain falls.

Turandot runs through June 8. See info and link below for details.

 

 

TURANDOT

Giacomo Puccini

Conducted by James Conlon

Sunday, June 2, at 2 pm

Wednesday, June 5, and Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 pm

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

135 North Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles

laopera.org/performances/turandot

 

 

Giacomo Puccini, Turandot, LA Opera, 2024 production, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, from top: Angela Meade (Turandot) and Russell Thomas (Calaf) (foreground); Meade; Thomas; scene from Turandot; Guanqun Yu (Liu); Meade (center); Morris Robinson (Timur); Alan Williams (the Mandarin); Terrence Chin-Loy (Pang), Julius Ahn (Pong), and Ryan Wolfe (Ping); scene from Turandot; Meade, Thomas, and Ashley Faatoalia (Emperor Altoum) (center).

Photographs by Cory Weaver, courtesy and © LA Opera.