As part of its ongoing The Met: Live in HD series, the Metropolitan Opera streams Puccini’s grand opera Turandot in cinemas the world over this coming weekend.
This spectacular production, by Italian director, designer, and producer of opera, theatre, motion pictures and television, the late Franco Zeffirelli, is described by the Huffington Post as “…. one of the gems in the Met repertory”. It stars Ukranian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role of Princess Turandot, South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee takes the role of Caláf, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho is Liù, and Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is Timur – the vanquished former King of Tartary and long-lost father of Caláf.
The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chorus are led by Italian conductor Marco Armiliato, and American soprano Nadine Sierra hosts the live transmission. Ms Sierra is currently starring in the title role of the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be the next Live in HD transmission, on Saturday, May 21st.
It was Renato Simoni – librettist, director and theatre critic – who suggested to Puccini that he write a lyric opera based on Friedrich Schiller’s version of the fairytale Turandotte, by the Venetian author Carlo Gozzi in 1762. Puccini was apparently most enthusiastic about the idea, and in 1919, Simoni and librettist Guiseppe Adami – who had already written libretti for Puccini’s La rondine and Il tabarro – started work on the text.
Work on the score for Turandot went slowly – it was five years before Puccini had written most of it – then, tragically, he died in 1924, before he could complete it, and without being able to enjoy the success of one of his most popular and most often performed works. The last duet and finale were written by Italian composer and pianist, Franco Alfano in 1926. Turandot was premiered at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25 of that year, but – according to PBS – “The opening night performance omitted the Alfano finale, with Toscanini putting down his baton where Puccini had abandoned the score when he died. Reportedly, Toscanini turned to the audience and said, ‘Here the composer died’.”
Set in Peking, this somewhat dark opera tells of the beautiful, but icy, Princess Turandot who is determined never to be possessed by a man. She sets her suitors the task of answering three riddles – which, until the arrival of Prince Caláf – none of them has successfully done, resulting in their execution. Distraught at the thought of having to marry Caláf, Princess Turandot willingly accepts his challenge of guessing his name before dawn, instructing her subjects not to sleep until his name has been discovered – hence the introduction of the most popular aria in the opera, Nessun dorma (none shall sleep). Thanks to the sacrifice of the slave girl, Liù – who was in love with Caláf, but suffers torture, and ultimately death, rather than reveal his name – Turandot weakens, and Caláf ultimately wins her hand.
Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote of Liudmyla Monastyrska: “…. this magnificent singer can express all feelings, all emotional levels through her vocal: peace, despair, death, restlessness, eroticism, fear of death, tenderness.” In previous seasons, she has starred in Live in HD transmissions of Verdi’s Aida and Nabucco, and she will follow this Met Opera performance with an appearance at the Arena di Verona in the title role of Aida, then as Donna Leonora in La forza del destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma. Ms Monastyrska will return to the Met in October to sing the title role in Puccini’s Tosca.
Yonghoon Lee has previously sung the role of Caláf at the Met, and earlier this year at Opera Australia in Sydney, where he also sang the title role in Verdi’s Otello. Following this performance in Turandot, Mr Lee will return to Sydney to sing Manrico in Verdi’s Il trovatore and return to the role of Caláf at the Fondazione Arena di Verona.
Ermonela Jaho sings Liù which she has recently sung in a concert performance at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Other performances this year include the title role in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur at the Teatro Communale di Bologna and in Oviedo, Spain, Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Staatsoper in Hamburg, and the title role in Massenet’s Thais at Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Following her 2017 performance in Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera House, The Independent wrote: “Ermonela Jaho is the best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years”
Marco Armiliato has led orchestras at many of the world’s leading opera houses. He is a frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has conducted operas including La bohème, Macbeth, Turandot, Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West. In 2012 he set a record at the Met by conducting six operas in six days.
The Metropolitan Opera’s live cinema transmission of Turandot begins at 12:55 pm ET on 7th May. To find your local cinema and time of screening, visit this link.
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