Review: Turandot

Turandot

In opera, nothing succeeds like excess! Few operas are as deliriously excessive as Puccini’s Turnadot, and Franco Zeffirelli’s deliciously over-the-top production matches it to a T.

There are many in the past who have maligned this production for being vulgar in its eye-filling grandeur. To them I say: you understand we are at the opera, right? There might have been a brief time 250 or more years ago when Italian opera aimed at high art restraint and refinement, but that was really an aberration in opera’s gilded, gaudy, giddy, glorious history. Turandot and Zeffirelli’s production represent, if anything, the mainstream of this habitually outsized and outrageous form of entertainment. And I love them for it!

Now I’m not saying there aren’t problems with this tale of an icy Chinese princess pursued by a mysterious prince. The opera has many moments of stereotypical Orientalism, and is being produced in “yellowface” on a scale that truly dwarfs the practice of having Otello in Verdi’s opera of the same name in blackface (a practice the Met recently dropped).

That aside, this kind of spectacle married to lush, colorful and varied music is exactly what attracts me about opera. The music of Turandot is a massive bridge between Romanticism and Modernism, with heavy traffic in both directions. In the current Met revival, conductor Paolo Carignani corrals this wild, galloping beast into some sort of luminescent order. The stand-out performance was undoubtedly Christine Goerke in the title role, bringing to this broadly drawn archetype all kinds of musical and psychological colors. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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