at the opera
Apr 10, 2012 | 10:50 am
Can love melt the ice princess?
That is the central question of Turandot, Puccini's famed opera that will close the 25th season of Austin Lyric Opera this month.
Puccini created works that are the essence of grand opera and Turandot is no exception, giving the audience a spectacular feast for both eyes and ears. The title character is a beautiful but cold princess; Turandot has determined that no man will ever possess her, and it seems impossible for true love to break the icy barriers of her heart. Any prince seeking to win her hand in marriage must answer three riddles. If he fails, he will die.
As the opera opens, one potential suitor already faces execution. In spite of his bloody end there is another suitor, Calàf, who is determined to win Turandot. He successfully answers the riddles, but still vows he will give up his life if Turandot can discover his true name.
In this battle of wits and love, soprano Lise Lindstrom sings the role of Turandot. Lindstrom, a California native, recently debuted in the role to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Deutsche Oper Berlin, all to rave reviews.
"I have been honored and thrilled to sing the role of Turandot all over the world in some of the world's most important opera companies," Lindstrom says. "Generally, what sets the role of Turandot apart from the rest of the dramatic soprano repertoire is the range, or tessitura, of the role. It is a very high and declamatory part, and it requires a soprano voice that has the ability to be heard over the large orchestra while also sounding pretty. I hope to be able to do that."
This production comes from Kansas City, where it opened the brand new $300 million Kauffman Center. It's a new, lush and colorful production that was lauded there. Lindstrom sang in the Kansas City production, and has more than 30 Turandot performances under her belt.
Turandot was left incomplete at Puccini's death, and completed by Franco Alfano. The version most commonly performed is a shortened version of Alfano's original, encompassing and embodying the culmination of Puccini's orchestral writing and dramatic oversight.
"By the time he was working on Turandot, Puccini had been highly influenced by the compositional advances of other European composers," Lindstrom explains. "Yet he was intent on distilling his unique orchestral ideal, and to develop the Italian voice for 20th century opera. Unfortunately, Puccini passed away before completing the opera and being able to bring all his hopes to fruition. Regardless, we are left with Puccini's most adventurous writing to date along with some of the most innovative orchestration of all time, not to mention some incredibly beautiful music including the beloved aria Nessun dorma."
The role of Calàf is performed by Frank Porretta, and the conductor is ALO's Richard Buckley. "Turandot is a piece that reflects the culmination of the great Italian operatic tradition," he explains. "It is a grand affair, it is huge forces; its use of vocal power...all that culminated in a production that was only seen once before [in Kansas City]."
ALO recently announced its 2012-2013 Season 26, which kicks off in Nov. with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; followed by Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Jan. and Feb. 2013. The season concludes with a new production of Gounod’s Faust in April 2013. Buckley will lead all three productions.
“We selected three productions that allow us to explore repertoire and really showcase many world class artists on the stage,” Buckley says.
Kevin Smith, interim general director, added, “Audiences have responded with enthusiasm to our current anniversary season — subscriptions and contributions are up substantially — and they will undoubtedly enjoy the 26th season with three recognizable and inspiring operas.” A permanent general director, Joseph Specter, was appointed in February after an extensive nationwide search.
“I am pleased to welcome Joe to the company and enthusiastically look forward to working with him," Buckley says. "He and I share a passion for the art form and a commitment to take Austin Lyric Opera to new levels of artistic accomplishment and institutional strength.”
Turandot will be performed by the Austin Lyric Opera on April 14 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., and on April 22 at 3 p.m.. Tickets are available from $19, and may be purchased at the ALO online box office or by calling (512) 472 5992.