A grand outdoor arena for a Korean production of ‘Turandot’
I still remember the thrill that I felt upon hearing Luciano Pavarotti, charged with emotion as he sang “Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep)” for the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, in what was to be the final performance of legendary tenor’s life. I was overwhelmed by Pavarotti’s passion, but equally intrigued about the origin of the song.
The aria is from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot,” which is said to be a favorite here.
Audiences in Korea will be given a golden chance to enjoy the opera in August when a large-scale outdoor production of Turandot featuring world-class artists is staged in stadiums in Jeju and Seoul.
With ancient China as its setting, the opera tells the story of a princess named Turandot whose ancestress died at the hands of an invading foreign prince. The ancestress’ spirit lives on in Turandot and she has vowed that no man will ever have her. She punishes every man who tries to win her love by asking them to solve her riddles and beheading them when they fail to answer correctly.
Similar to the Sphinx in the Oedipus story, potential suitors are given three riddles that are all so rhetorical and complicated that no one can solve them - until Prince Calaf arrives and solves them all. When the princess refuses to marry the prince, he makes her an offer: either she finds out what his name is by dawn or she must agree to marry him.
The song Calaf sings is Nessun Dorma, in which he describes the situation the princess is facing and expresses his belief that he will eventually win her heart: “None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!”
In addition to the dramatic love story and passionate music, the opera will be set against a spectacular backdrop featuring majestic scenery and elegant lighting.
The Korean production company says the show will be as grand as the internationally-acclaimed production of the opera directed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou at the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1998. Zhang’s production came to Seoul in 2003 and attracted a record 110,000 viewers.
“While Zhang’s production of Turandot was immensely well received at the time, the upcoming production of Turandot in Seoul, which will feature internationally well-known foreign opera singers, including Anna Shafajinskaia in the role of Turandot, has been created by a Korean production team led by experienced opera director Kim Hong-seung,” Jung Bit-na, a PR official of AP Entertainment, the Korean production company, said.
“We plan to make this a regular production in the coming years and we expect it to help Korean opera to advance to theaters overseas,” she added. Just as with the 2003 production, an elaborate set will be constructed for this year’s presentation. The set, which will be 200 meters (656 feet) in width and 45 meters in length, will be installed at the World Cup Stadium in northern Seoul, which will serve as an open-air theater, according to the production company.
The orchestra will be led by legendary conductor Lorin Maazel, who is known among Korean audiences as a mentor to cellist Chang Han-na. Maazel is known as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century and was at the helm of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for seven years until 2008. That year, he conducted the orchestra in its historic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea.
*Turandot will be presented first in Jeju at the Jeju World Cup Stadium from July 29 to Aug. 3 at 8:15 p.m. After its Jeju performance, the opera will be presented at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong from Aug. 12 to 14 at 8:15 p.m. Tickets range from 50,000 won ($41.55) to 400,000 won and reservations can be made through www.interpark.com, www.ticketlink.co.kr and http://ticket.auction.co.kr. For more information, call 1577-5470 or visit www.turandot.co.kr.
By Park Sun-young [email@example.com]