Turandot Handa Opera Sydney Harbour review, THE F Feature

5 Reasons You Want To See Turandot By Opera Australia This Season

Ask anyone the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of Turandot and their response will be that one aria, renowned across the world. Over the past few decades this performance has learnt to hang almost entirely off the legendary Nessun Dorma (no one sleeps) as made popular by the now deceased Luciano Pavarotti in the 90s. But Turandot’s success cannot be attributed to one aria’s power and emotional pull alone. Opera Australia‘s director of Turandot for the fifth year of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, Chen Shi-Zheng wanted to reimagine the Giacomo Puccini piece in many ways, crushing Asian stereotypes, impressing with invigorated design and shattering with an unrealistic love story that is yet all too relatable. It’s a performance to see for many reasons, if not the iconic libretto, then the stunning Sydney Harbour scenery at very least..

1. The Turandot stage

Opera Australia stops at nothing to leave a lasting impression of incredibly detailed proportions with each seasonal turnover of their productions. Turandot is one of them. The team assembled one of the largest pontoon stages in Handa Opera history, that captures imagination and in quite aesthetically stunning in and of itself. Complete with a possibly almost to-scale dragon head that comes to life in a particularly poignant moment of the performance, no matter of creativity was spared.

Crafted from styrofoam and perfected with the help of intricate machine-work, the dragon is an impactful, stereotypically Chinese and magnificent spectacle to behold.

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2. The Turandot costumes

Turandot’s Dan Potra, the man behind the costume and set design has truly outdone himself. Princess Turandot is stunning atop her pagoda tower wearing regal sequinned robes while her advisors Ping, Pang and Pong punctuate the performance so perfectly, made only that much more impressive by their hand-designed and crafted Chinese robes.

Prince Calaf, mastered so effortlessly by Riccardo Massi wears regal red of a prince from a far away land. Meanwhile, the troupe of backup dancers and the choir sport Chinese commoner and guard garb that, though playing to a 1920s’ Western interpretation of Chinese culture, look flawless and do their part in carrying the audience away to another place.

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3. Nessun Dorma, the Aria that everybody knows

This is the opera in which you can hear one of the world’s most popular and famous arias. Made popular thanks to the ever amiable and totally likable Luciano Pavarotti, Nessun Dorma comes-in at the opening of the third act, just after the Princess Turandot has declared that no one in China is permitted to sleep that night. She’s going through a hard time internally having just lost a wager with the prince from a far away land that will result in a future she hasn’t had to entertain the possibility of before. It’s this aria you can feel the audience unanimously breathe a sigh of familiarity of, but it’s that familiarity for the firework moment of the entire score that is embodied in a way that no audience member is prepared for…

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4. The fireworks of the Turandot aria

Punctuating the performance and truly highlighting the passion for which Calaf feels for his betrothed Princess Turandot, the background stage comes to life to highlight just that.

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5. The specially crafted stage

Just in case a custom-built fire-breathing dragon isn’t enough to whet any audience member’s appetite for grandeur and large-scale drama, the stage itself is enough to do just that. An interactive Chinese pagoda tower from which the overbearing and tyrannical Princess Turandot rules China takes a lot of the limelight from the stage with clever lighting and effects, but it’s as simple as how the full cast make use of the space that is truly impressive. Phalanx of dancing soldiers and Chinese ribbon dancers flit across the space, impressively in time with an absent orchestra, playing remotely.

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Turandot Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour can be found at Sydney’s Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair on the northern peak of the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. See more and buy tickets at their website.

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James Banham
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James Banham

Editor at THE F
James Banham is an Australian lifestyle, fashion and entertainment journalist. His writing can be found on these many topics and more in print and online publications around the country.
James Banham
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