The magic at the Joan Sutherland Theatre was alive and in abundance at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday night as masked crowds swelled in anticipation for the opening of Puccini’s unfinished masterpiece, Turandot.
This three act, three-hour epic, set in 11th century Jin dynasty China. tells the story of a fierce, cold-hearted and pitiless Princess named Turnadot who aims to deter anyone wanting to marry her, in the belief that she is avenging a mistreated ancestor. The Opera follows her suitors, her emperor father, and the tragedy of unrequited love in a slave girl named Liu.
The first act has a beheading to sate the bloodlust of a heaving mob, a reunion between father and son after years of separation, an introduction to Princess Turandot’s three hilarious Ministers, Ping, Pang, and Pong, and the courageous Calaf. All the while the Opera Australia orchestra, chorus, and children’s chorus set the drama with their hundreds piece presence to stun audiences & leave them aghast.
The spectacle continues into act two as Princess Turandot attempts to outsmart the brave Calaf and send him the same way as the hapless and unfortunate Prince Of Persia, and countless others who dare to possess her. However, Calaf is not a Persian Prince, and Turandot’s three dangerous riddles are easily solved by Calaf leaving the princess taken aback. A change in fate re-enfranchises and re-empowers the desperate Princess to take into her hands Calaf’s life.
Strong performances were exhibited by all artists but the standouts were Luke Gabbedy, Iain Henderson, and Virgilio Marino, as Ping, Pang, and Pong respectively. The unforgettable Karah Son gave the audience goosebumps with every note sung as Liù – who received a standing ovation from the Opera House onlookers.
Director and Choreographer, and leviathan of Australian dramatic arts, Graeme Murphy, has once again demonstrated his visionary prowess in this version of Puccini’s last opera. Murphy deserves special credit for luring hesitant Sydneysiders out of their pandemic-imposed isolation and into the famous Opera House for this unforgettable accomplishment that will arguably go down as his masterwork. Not only for the performance itself, but for being able to achieve such levels of grandeur in the midst of a pandemic.
At almost 100 years after Puccini’s death, one can only imagine that Puccini himself would be impressed by Murphy’s efforts.
In short, get tickets now.
Until Mar 14. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $79+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au