Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ returns to Korea for 2d engagement

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Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ returns to Korea for 2d engagement

“Anyone who wishes to win the hand of Princess Turandot must solve three riddles; whosoever cannot answer must die.”
Such is the challenge at the heart of “Turandot,” one of the most beloved operas by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, the man who wrote “La Boheme,” “Madama Butterfly” and “Tosca.”
Considered one of Puccini’s best works, “Turandot” was also his last; it was not produced until after his death in 1924.
“Turandot” opened at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday and will continue through next Saturday; that 15-day run is the longest ever by a foreign opera company in Korea.
Two years ago, the same production was presented at Sangam World Cup Stadium, where the sound quality drew negative reviews. Essentially the same cast is back for the current production.
This production of “Turandot” has rather spectacular staging, featuring glittering columns standing from left to right, a golden Buddha statue and the colorful roofs of a Chinese palace. The costumes and hairstyles may not be historically accurate, but the point is to reflect how Asia was imagined by Europeans of a bygone age. Its exotic sword dancing and “oriental” elements are key to the opera’s look.
The story is about a beautiful princess in China who has a deep loathing for men. To avoid getting married, she gives riddles to the men seeking her hand; those who can’t solve the riddles are killed. After the deaths of many men, Prince Calaf of Timur solves the riddle and marries her.
But Liu, a slave girl who secretly loves him, adds more to the story.
Like many visiting operas in Korea, “Turandot” is being marketed as an expensive, high-end production. Tickets for some of the best seats were even coated in gold.
As far as the quality of the music goes, the production has some reputable names going for it. The head director is Katia Recciarelli, of Italy’s Macerata Theatre.
Jiovanna Casolla, a soprano, who plays Princess Turandot, has sung the role for many years. A performance in China led to her being dubbed “the best Princess Turandot” by the Chinese media; take that for what it’s worth.
Nicola Martinucci, who plays Prince Calaf, has also sung in “Aida.” Daniela Schillacci, who plays Liu, is well-regarded for her presence and technique.
Well-known Korean opera singers including Lee Mi-hyang, An Seong-hwan and Kim Hyeon-dong also appear in the production.
The opera is in Italian, with Korean subtitles.

by Choi Sun-young

Ticket prices range from 30,000 won ($30) to 300,000 won. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. To get to the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, use Gwanghwamun station, subway line No. 5. For information, call (02) 587-7771 or go to www.turandot.co.kr.
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