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28 June, 2015

Big voices make for terrific Turandot at Sydney Opera House.

Turandot - Wed 24th June 2015 - Sydney Opera House.
Fasten your seat belts as this is one exciting escapade to open the Sydney opera season.  This Turandot is a must-see and must-hear for anyone interested in great singing.  Seats are $44 (restricted view) to $300.  Finally the management seems to have worked out that opera is an international sport and the principal roles need to be taken by serious international competitors. 
American dramatic soprano Lise Lindstrom sings the cold princess with a palpable presence.  She has an enormous, accurate and steely voice while also looking beautiful and acting well on stage. 
Mr Yonghoon Lee has a very large and well schooled voice with a pleasant and more-ish quality.  From Calafs first utterances he commands attention, even above the entire orchestra and chorus.  Mr Lees recent Don Carlos at the Met sounded very fine but to hear the same voice in a smaller theatre was extraordinary.  He is tall and cuts a decent figure on stage.  He received one of the few spontaneous standing ovations I have seen from a Sydney audience.  It was reminiscent of the Sutherland days of the 1980s.  And this was repeated for the soprano, and deservedly so. 
Hyeseoung Kwon sang Liu with the delicate legato needed for this important role. 
Civil servants Ping, Pang and Pong were sung brilliantly by Luke Gabbedy, Graeme Macfarlane and John Longmuir.  Jud Arthur was excellent as Timur, Calafs father.  The Mandarin or town crier should have a booming declamatory voice to open the opera and tell its story line.  Gennadi Dubinsky was disappointing and I wonder that the company uses him year after year for inappropriate roles.  The Emperor is a comprimario part and while tradition has him old and frail Mr Rasheed was either not up to singing the low notes or he was over-acting.  Yet these small deficiencies stand in stark contrast to the magnificent flow of glorious vocalising the likes of which we have not heard for some time in Sydney. 
The orchestra and chorus deserve full credit for recreating Graham Murphys vibrant production of Puccinis last masterpiece (completed by his student Alfano).  The original choreography uses many modern tricks with ribbons, blackened mannequins, giant flags, fans and more.  Christian Badea conducted with accurate deference to the composer. 
A high point for me is the riddle scene in act II when, after moments of uncertainty, Calaf gives correct one-word responses to three riddles posed by the princess.  Like clouds parting after a storm the whole of Peking, except the princess, seems to lurch into major-key happiness.  Then the prince allows one additional riddle which, if answered correctly, would release the reluctant princess from her vow.  This in turn leads to the start of Act III and Nessun dorma when none shall sleep until the name of the mystery suitor is discovered.  After witnessing Lius descent into love-torn suicide, Turandot publicly claims to know the name, announcing it to be … “Amore” (love), averting a potential tragedy and allowing a happy ending with a full choral reprise of the Nessun dorma or World Cup theme. 
Just get a ticket! 
Written by Andrew Byrne ..
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