Turandot is Puccini’s final opera, left unfinished after his death in 1924 and completed by Franco Alfano. The set-up's something like this: a cold Chinese princess (Turandot) vows only to marry the man who answers her three riddles correctly. If a suitor answers incorrectly, he faces the slightly cruel fate of being put to death. Prince Calaf, enchanted by Turandot’s beauty, takes up the challenge, and the fatal risk.
The hardest thing to get your head around with this opera is that it’s set in China (with all on stage wearing black wigs and kitsch, Geisha-like makeup) yet sung in Italian, but once you get over that you’re free to appreciate the immense production work that Andrei Serban and crew have put into staging this piece, with giant dragons rolling onto stage, troupes of dancers gavotting about, and the emperor's descent from the ceiling on a throne of gold.
The music has a slight Disney-esque quality but is performed flawlessly by the in-house orchestra, and there’s no denying the breath-taking talent of Lise Lindstrom as Turandot, and also in particular Eri Nakamura’s beautiful rendition of slave girl Liù. Yet another wonderful revival of a classic at the Royal Opera House.
Turnandot runs on selected dates at the Royal Opera House until 10 March 2014. Press image copyright ROH/Johan Persson.