Magazine article Musical Opinion

Puccini's Turandot

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Puccini's Turandot

Article excerpt

More than any other composer Puccini offered opera a popular, identifiable face. His heroes and heroines, given their sad endings, were the stuff of newspaper headlines, human interest stories and agony columns. It is no coincidence that two of his operas, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème, inspired the successful Broadway musicals Miss Saigon and Kent. So what can one make of his chillfreighted Chinese fairy-story Turandot, which in Zeffirelli's still magical 20-year-old staging was restored to the repertory on 30 March, accompanied by fervent cheers? Now, this Puccini has no dying Mimi or wronged Butterfly to endear it, but a pathologically crazy ice-Princess of a heroine.

How crazy? She cheerfully has the heads chopped off all prospective marriage suitors if they fail to give correct answers to three stupid riddles in a sick quiz show that might get fantastic ratings on reality TV.

To this unsympathetic candidate for psychiatry and a padded cell, add a besotted hero who, having fallen at first glance for the blood-crazed Princess and waded successfully through her questioning without even having to telephone a friend, then puts the life of his aged father at risk and watches impassively while the slave-girl who selflessly loves him commits suicide just to protect his smug carcass. But remember, this is one of the very rare Puccini operas to provide a happy-everafter ending! It also has some of Puccini's most sumptuous music, that sinister comic trio Ping, Pang and Pong, and a spectacle to die for, as some in the cast have to. …

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