Once upon a time, the great Giacomo Puccini started on an artistic masterpiece titled Turandot. The opera was unfinished at the time of Puccini’s death in 1924 but was completed by Franco Alfano in 1926.
Turandot was the daughter of an emperor in Ancient China named Emperor Altoum. He decreed that she will only marry a man of noble blood who can answer three riddles. Taking your best stab at three riddles doesn’t seem too daunting a task, right? The only problem is if you fail to answer the three, the cost is your head.
We are introduced to this very inhumane penalty in ACT I, where not even the Prince of Persia was beyond the reach of such torture. He was stripped of his noble garb and was set to be executed at the moon’s rising.
Meanwhile, outside the palace, a blind man falls to the ground and his companion Liù asks for help from a stranger. The stranger recognizes the old man as his long-lost father Timur (who was a banished ruler). Both the stranger (the only people who know his name as Calaf are Liù and the blind man) and Timur are hiding their identity.
The townspeople are very familiar with how things go when noblemen travel from far and wide to seek the hand of Turandot. They never solve the riddles and once they fail, their heads will roll. In Act II you’ll find a mini-story and barrels of comedy from characters Ping, Pang, and Pong, who are prepared for a wedding (just in case the riddles are solved) or a funeral (which is what’s expected).
There is so much to love and enjoy about Turandot that you might experience sensory overload like most of the audience opening night. This story is one of love, loss, courage, death, happiness, and laughter. Could you imagine pursuing the hand of a woman who would only be released to you if you successfully solved three riddles and if you failed you’d be publicly executed? One might think there’s too much at stake for such a desire, but crazy things happen to those who are in love.
In my reviews of the arts, I always like to link readers to music they may have heard before without knowing its origin. My favorite being fans of Looney Tunes not knowing they’ve spoofed countless operas in their existence (ex: ‘Rabbit of Seville’). Some of you may have heard “Nessun Dorma” and if you have, your ears have clearly been blessed. That beautiful composition is from this very opera and the great Gianluca Terranova does it equal justice as Luciano Pavarotti below.
Turandot – Marcy Stonikas
Prince Calaf – Gianluca Terranova
Emperor Altoum – Nathan Munson
Ping, Pang, & Pong – Daniel Belcher, Julius Ahn, Joseph Hu
Timur – Steven Humes
Liù – Kelly Kaduce
I give Turandot a 9.5 out of 10. There is no better way to close out the Opera Season than with the story of Turandot. The schedule has it running through May 7 and you can buy tickets HERE. With a 100+ member chorus and a larger than life ensemble, you’re in for a truly one of a kind experience. Everything about this performance is stellar so you are not going to be disappointed. The only thing you need to consider is the duration is approximately two and a half hours (that’s including two, 20-minute intermissions). But fortunately, the story is so compelling that you won’t even notice the clock. Besides, there’s a shock ending that you absolutely must see.
Photo: Raftermen for The Atlanta Opera