Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Turandot Project": Production of the last Puccini masterpiece in Beijing in 2000


In November 1980, shortly after Ronald Reagan won the election against Jimmy Carter, I say Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot as performed by the Dallas Opera. I believe that at the time the opera performance were held in Fair Park.

The music with Aflano’s completion of the conclusion is exotic and postromantic (dating to 1926) and the final passages give thrills like those of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. It’s actually one of relatively few grand operas with such a massed choral ending (and Alfano’s orchestration seems to come from Mahler). The libretto is by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni.. The original play was by Carlo Gozzi and there is also an adaptation by Friedrich Schiller, and the original story comes from a Persian collection called “The Book of One Thousand and One Days”. The plot, with the “three riddles” is well known.

Zeitgeist distributes an 84 minute film, directed by Allan Miller, called “The Turandot Project.” Zubin Mehta, as conductor and Zhang Yimou as director have put on the opera in Florence in 1997. The movie is about putting on the opera in Beijing in 2000. There would be nine performances, so three women would have to play Turandot, in order that each has two days rest. The three sopranos are Giovanna Casolla, Audrey Stottler, and Sharon Sweet. The opening of the film, and then at the very end, the thrilling conclusion is shown. The production is set in China (as if often is) rather than Persia, and the sets show it, anticipating the work during the Olympics.

The film shows Beijing up close as it looked eight years before the Olympics, when Chinese “capitalism” was less far along. Some of the unison choral performances stress the idea of national unity, and that the performers were doing this for China, and not just for themselves.

The film can be played directly on Netflix.

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