‘Turandot’ offers fun for the family

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‘Turandot’ offers fun for the family


Left: “Turandot” is this year’s featured family opera from the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Right: A scene from “Turandot” shows the protagonist of the same name, a beautiful, yet cold-hearted princess. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]

The Seoul Arts Center (SAC) is bringing its kid-friendly opera series back for some summertime fun.

This year, famed Italian composer Giacomo Puccini’s timeless classic “Turandot” is gracing the stage for SAC’s family opera series, an annual tradition that the center began in 2001 to attract younger audiences to the theater.

The enchanting tale of “Turandot” provides enough drama and suspense to keep audiences of all ages entertained until the final number.

The opera, which premiered in 1926, features the beautiful, yet cold-hearted Princess Turandot of China, who makes her suitors solve three riddles before they can ask for her hand in marriage. If they get even one answer wrong, the penalty is death.

Dozens of princes are killed in this manner until Prince Calaf, who has been banished from his own kingdom, successfully answers the three questions. Seeing that Princess Turandot still loathes the idea of marriage, Prince Calaf gives her a riddle that she can solve to avoid marrying him.

The opera’s East Asian set design and musical elements may be familiar to Korean audiences. Although the original story is taken from a Persian tale from which the Princess gets her name, Puccini decided to place the tale in the Asian kingdom. In the opera, actors don Chinese imperial costumes, and the music features tunes from Chinese folk songs.

To make the show more suitable for younger audiences, SAC made its production of “Turandot” a bit shorter and brushed over adult themes that appeared in the original version, like an implied rape.

A cast of talented singers include “Turandot” veterans like Lilla Lee and James Lee, who were cast to make the opera a memorable experience for beginners to the genre.

Other notable participants include conductor Choi Hee-joon, who is currently serving as the chief conductor of the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as stage director Pyo Hyun-jin.

The venue of the production - the 1,000-seat CJ Towol Theater in southern Seoul - creates an intimate vibe and allows for the show to be visible from all angles. The Korean translation of the actors’ Italian lyrics will be provided via three monitors near the stage.

Since kicking off in 2001, the SAC has put on 15 shows as part of its family opera series, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and “The Little Prince,” attracting over 126,000 total visitors over the years.

The center’s newly-appointed CEO Yoo In-taek expressed his hope that “Turandot” would “serve as a gateway to turn the entire family into opera lovers.”

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

“Turandot” runs through Sunday. Shows will begin at 3 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 3 p.m. for the final performance on Sunday.

Tickets are priced between 30,000 won ($24.70) and 70,000 won and are available to order online via ticket seller Interpark.

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