Welcome to a New – and Remarkably Eclectic – 2019-20 Met Live in HD Season at your local Cinema!
~By Lynne Gray, Ph.D.~
From Wagner to Berg, from Gershwin to Glass, from Handel to Puccini – there is literally something for everyone this season. We ended last season with Verdi’s grandest spectacle opera, Aida; so what better way to begin the new season than with Puccini’s grandest spectacle opera, Turandot. That’s TEWR-ən-dot. With the T! Remember – Puccini was Italian – not French – hence most people agree on “dot” not “doh”! Actually, the name of the opera is based on a name in ancient Persian poetry for a Central Asian princess, Turan-Dokht (daughter of Turan). But I digress – since Puccini decided to make her Chinese, not Persian, there is a decidedly Chinese flavor to this particular spectacle, and a never ending debate on dot or doh!
Happily, there is no better dramatic soprano alive today to see and hear in this incredibly challenging role than Christine Goerke, and no more dazzling production to enjoy than this one designed by the great Franco Zeffirelli. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s new Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, conducting his first Puccini opera with the company completes the experience. Rounding out the cast are Yusif Eyvazov as Calaf (he is the far less well-known husband of mega diva Anna Netrebko – you are welcome to make of that what you will), Eleonara Buratto as the opera’s heroic – but tragic – Liú, and James Morris as Calaf’s father, Timur.
Set in the mythic past, the opera begins outside of the Imperial Palace where a Mandarin is explaining to the crowd that anyone wishing to marry the Princess Turandot must first accept her challenge to answer three riddles – at the cost of his head if he cannot. The rather unfortunate Prince of Persia is about to join a long line of princes before him and be parted from his – very handsome – head. All of this is witnessed by a slave girl, Liú, her aged master, Timur, who happens to be the defeated King of Tartary, and the young Calaf, who suddenly recognizes Timur in the crowd as his long lost father.
The crowd pleads for mercy for the handsome Prince, but Turandot emerges from her imperial tower and wordlessly orders the executioner to proceed. This, of course, being opera, we are not allowed to question why Calaf instantly falls in love with this bloodthirsty ice Princess. Against all earnest advice from his father, from the faithful Liú who loves him deeply, and from Ping, Pang, and Pong – the comic relief in this dreadful decapitation scene, Calaf sounds the gong signaling he is accepting Turandot’s challenge.
How Calaf answers the riddles and then poses one of his own (that keeps everyone awake – so, of course, Nessun Dorma, No One Will Sleep.); how Liú, in giving up her life to save Calaf’s, finally melts the heart of the icy Princess; how Calaf does win Turandot’s hand – and the throne – for himself, and how Ping, Pang and Pong live happily ever after (although still wondering if Calaf is in his right mind) – that is the stuff of Acts II and III, and to find out, head for the Cinema on Saturday Oct 12 at 9:55 a.m., for the live HD transmission, or Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 1:00pm or 6:30pm for the encore. Enjoy! … and stay tuned for Manon coming at the end of the month.