Your boyfriend might be a self-absorbed diva sometimes, but trust me, he doesn’t hold a candle to Turandot, the titular character from the opening production last weekend of the Florida Grand Opera’s (FGO) 70th season.
Set in ancient China, Giacomo Puccini’s opera tells the story of a beautiful princess who draws suitors from across the vast reaches of Asia, but will only marry if her prince can answer three enigmatic riddles. How hard can that be? There is a hitch, however. Her beauty belies a cold and outright cruel personality and a desire not to become the property of any man. Should her potential mate fail any of the riddles, his head lands on the chopping block.
Enter Calaf, the latest young man to be entranced by Turandot’s beauty. Despite the warnings of his father, Timur, and servant Liu, Calaf rings the gong signaling his intention to accept the challenge. Despite his correct answer to Turandot’s riddles, she refuses to marry Calaf and he offers an alternative, for her to discover his name by sunrise and if she succeeds he will submit himself to her executioner.
Like so many of Puccini’s operas, death and bloodshed abound but without spoiling the ending, let’s just say Turandot surprises all.
After a 2009-10 season of tight budgets and inventive, if relatively modest, productions, FGO’s production is a return to the tradition of grand opera with sumptuous beaded and silk-screened costumes and a breathtaking set that features a reclining dragon holding a giant iridescent pearl that serves as an alter to Turandot—all designed by Allen Charles Klein.
Lise Lindstrom makes her debut with FGO in the title role and captivated the audience just as her character mesmerized her suitors. Elizabeth Caballero also drew hearty applause as Liu, as did Kevin Langan portraying Timur. Tenor Frank Porretta was a dashing Calaf who displayed excellent onstage chemistry with Lindstrom, and brought rousing cheers from the audience as he belted out the instantly recognizable aria, “Nessun dorma,” even as he found himself competing against thick orchestrations and the enthusiastic baton of conductor Ramon Tebar.
The opera will be presented at Miami’s Arsht Center for five performances ending Saturday, Nov. 27 before moving to the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale for two performances on Dec. 2 and 4.
Florida Grand Opera
Nov. 19, 21, 27 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Arsht Center, Miami
Dec. 2, 4 at 8 p.m. at the Broward Center, Fort Lauderdale
Tickets available at FGO.org