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Turandot: Cipher of an Opera


Turandot is a cipher of an opera. The surface seems so simple: a prince must answer three riddles in order to win a princess’s hand in marriage. But… Is it misogynist or subtly feminist? Is it late Romantic or modern? Why did Calaf fall in love with Turandot, anyway? People can’t even agree on how to pronounce her name (such is the mystery of art).

Chorus pro Musica concluded its 60th season with a semi-staged production on Sunday afternoon, May 31, at Jordan Hall. The opera’s exoticisms certainly invite a grand staging, but it seemed better off without it. The singers squeezed against the orchestra’s punch-drunk playing, the nearly packed house keeping cool on a warm day… musical theater is more fun when one is reminded of its essential gaudiness. The staging was actually quite effective, a series of simple but strong pictures. Regrettably, the program didn’t credit the director by name, so neither can I.

The group was led by Jeffrey Rink. This was final concert with the group before leaving to lead the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. He was clearly having the time of his life. He sang along with most of the show. Each time he left the podium, he did so with a swagger and impish grin. His conducting favored momentum over decorum, but was never sloppy. The orchestra kept up with him the entire afternoon.

Othalie Graham’s Turnadot projected a mystery befitting the character. She began cold and removed, but readily transitioned to enraptured lover. Special mention should go to David Kravitz (Ping) for his acting during Liù’s death scene. It was a good reminder that comic characters are not devoid of humanity, nor that opening one’s mouth is necessary to make a major contribution to a scene.

Adam Baratz is a composer and pianist. He lives in Cambridge.


3 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. We are happy to let Mr. Baratz know that the various soloists came up with the staging! Before the show, I saw Frank Kelly slipping into the hall with that little tea table!

    Comment by Sue Auclair — June 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm

  2. There wasn’t a stage director. We just made up the staging in what few rehearsals we had.

    Comment by Charley Blandy — June 3, 2009 at 10:03 pm

  3. Dear Adam: Thank you for your remarks and for attending Turandot. I sang in the chorus and, so, can authoritatively inform you that there was no stage director. That wonderful and delightful stage choreography you witnessed was developed by the principals themselves, acting entirely on their own initiative. Such was the level of professionalism and artistry with which we, and our audience, were blessed. I’m so glad you enjoyed the performance. Sincerely, Genevieve Pluhowski

    Comment by genevieve pluhowski — June 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

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