Well, if you need a reason to attend L’Opéra de Montréal’s final production of the 2013-2014 season, then your reason is Hiromi Omura (Soprano). In the role of Liù, Omura’s breathtaking voice fills Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier commanding your full attention and demanding you feel the pain of unrequited love.
Set in “Peking” during “legendary times” the story revolves around Princess Turandot (Galina Shesterneva, Soprano) and her series of suitors. Refusing to befall the same fate as her predecessor, who was slain by a stranger, and set on avenging her, Turandot has devised three riddles. Only the suitor that can solve all three may have her hand, fail even one and the consequence is beheading. After taking the heads of over a dozen men, along comes Calaf (Karmen Chanev, Tenor). Smitten with Turandot, he faces the threat of death head on, as it were. Successful in this task, Calaf turns to take the princess who quickly declares her disdain. He then presents her with a challenge of his own; if Turandot can figure out his name then he will take the death sentence.
Only one person professes to know his name and that is Liù. Tortured for the information, she maintains her resolve. Driven by her love for Calaf, Liù dies protecting him. When Calaf confronts Turandot about her cold-hearted actions, she realizes her growing love for him is beginning to melt her heart.
With beautifully detailed costumes and seamless choreography, the vast ensemble cast came together for a strong and captivating performance in this Opera Australia production. The strong performances were a welcomed distraction from the set design, which was reminiscent of a high school play.
Puccini died before completing Turandot, and it has received much criticism in regards to the final acts. I would be remiss if I did not address the inherent racial issues with this opera. I am not the first to remark upon this, many have made mention of the racism and sexism of Puccini’s last opera. Much of that is par for the course in these century old works of art; however it may be time to revise the tradition of white actors dominating the racially diverse roles. I will leave this for you to judge.