A night of tricks and treats as Puccini’s Turandot spends Halloween at the Grand Opera house and it had all the darkness that we grow accustomed to at this time of year.
Calixto Bieito brought his re-working of Puccini’s unfinished masterpiece Turandot to Belfast over the weekend and for those in attendance I’m sure it didn’t feel like a standard night at the opera.
As a relative newcomer to the opera, I didn’t know what I was really expecting to find but a dark tale of slit throats, cross-dressing guards and a blood soaked theatre stage was not exactly what I had envisioned before I went.
When you think of the opera, you think of elegance and grace, but if you go and see Bieito’s Turandot, you’ll see suicide, rape and a three cross-dressing guards called Ping, Pang and Pong.
I know how random that all sounds but I guess random is the best way I can describe the show. It has elements of 1984 mixed with a cult Asian horror film, but sang by sopranos, baritones and tenors with vigour and confidence all the way thorough. A combination that you really wouldn’t find anywhere else.
The sensation of the show from was undoubtedly Anna Patalong who played Liu, a slave girl, every time her scintillating soprano solos filled the opera house. It got the reaction it warranted and the crowd where giving her rapturous rounds of applause even mid scene at one point.
Miriam Murphy’s depiction of Princess Turandot was symbolic of the opera, from a fantastic vocal that enthralled everyone to lying in the middle of the blood soaked stage ripping limbs off plastic dolls, as I said before, random but compelling none the less.
Stephen Richardson’s performance of Calaf was solid throughout and I was eagerly anticipating his performance of Nessun Dorma and once it was delivered, it felt both out of place and at the wrong time but I’ll put that down to my own opera ignorance, although I was left quite underwhelmed by it but this is a little unfair as I have only ever really listened to Pavarotti sing it before, not an easy man to compare him to.
I don’t even know where to start on Ping, Pang and Pong, played by Andrew Rees, Eamonn Mulhall and Paul Carey Jones respectively. From there brutality and depravity towards their subjects to the lycra high heels and wedding dresses they dawn in Act 2, a very strange trio altogether, delivered effectively by the baritones and tenors.
For a beginner to the opera I did find it difficult to follow the plot and to know exactly what was going on. You could see a rough premise and have a brief understanding of the plot but I’d say that for most laymen it would be difficult to have a good grip on the story line, nonetheless you would certainly know how dark and depraved it was.
The direction of this opera was clearly to shock and to engage and from the reaction inside the opera house it did this on both accounts and the conversations heard amongst couples as everyone filed out was all to this effect.
So first time at the opera and not at all what I was expecting to find, but I suppose if you’re going to go to the opera at Halloween, you might as well get the creeps when your there. Enthralling, energetic but a very strange show. Pól O’Hagan, GiggingNI.com