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17 July, 2006

Turandot in Sydney. Third time lucky (and unlucky!)

Sydney Opera House

Friday July 14 2006

TurandotJennifer Wilson
LiuHye Seoung Kwon
CalafDongwon Shin
PingJohn Pringle
PangHenry Choo
PongKanen Breen
ConductorPatrick Summers
ProductionGraeme Murphy
DesignerKristian Fredrikson

Dear Colleagues,

After two less-than-satisfactory starts to the winter season (Lakmé and Clemenza di Tito) this Turandot was a night to remember for many reasons. It was a rainy, miserable night but all the finery was out for this show. Opera boss Adrian Collette announced the difficulties of replacing Dennis O'Neill at 3 days notice with Mr Shin flown in from America only the day before and singing without a rehearsal (and without a central stage prompter!). One wonders what would have happened if there was 3 hours notice of illness which occasionally occurs in the theatre.

This performance warmed up with each act improving on the last and a final triumph of voice, melody, movement, colour and drama of which I believe the composer would have been delighted.

Ms Wilson sang creditably. She had all the notes and was dramatic and exciting. Her 'In questa reggia' was a tour-de-force.

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Mr Shin sang well but seemed under-powered initially, especially in the lower range. He rose to the occasion for 'Nessun dorma', ending on a magnificent high cadence which seemed to go on forever, loudly applauded, but without a musical break. His acting was slightly stiff but one must make allowances as he had never rehearsed this production. He sang the role at Santa Fe, along with many other major roles in minor houses in the US.

Ms Kwon made an excellent Liu, receiving a huge ovation at the end. The Korean ambassador had travelled from Canberra for the occasion with two of his citizens in the operatic lime light.

Mr Murphy's production is a masterpiece of colour and movement. He uses waving ribbons on sticks, extended hands, crowd 'rolls', shadows and many other 'tricks' to move the action along. His genius makes Ping Pang and Pong's scenes bearable and now, subtitles inform us that their 'chatter' could make a good episode of 'Yes Minister'. The opera chorus performed many synchronised stage feats in addition to their fine ensemble singing, as did the children's chorus.

Patrick Summers' conducting was animated, bringing tension, beauty and volume from members of the Opera and Ballet Orchestra. He got straight into the opera without delay or ceremony, receiving huge and appreciative applause at appropriate times. Summers was let down on a couple of minor occasions in the first and last acts with some brass glitches but with an excellent overall effect.

Jud Arthur was well cast this time as Timur, a role well within his substantial abilities. Henry Choo, Kanen Breen and John Pringle played 3 fine public servants while Shane Lowrencev opened the piece as an adequate town crier.

One hopes that the season will settle down, Mr O'Neill will regain his health and that as many Sydney-siders as possible will be able to witness this marvellous spectacle over the next month or so.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..