Minnesota Opera Presents Turandot
updated 7:00 PM, Sunday 14th of April 2013
“I thought opera was for old farts, bourgeoisie and people in dinner jackets. Opera’s for anyone who’s willing to submit. Stick your nose in and find out what’s going on.”
– Terry Gilliam (American-born British screenwriter, film director, animator, actor and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe)
My fear is that the very word opera will prompt you to click away from this article. You know about the opera and you’re not interested, right? Even a quick Google search of the word 'opera' produces a stereotypical image of a buxom woman with blond braids, a Viking helmet and Madonna-esque, cone-shaped breasts. But what if I told you that the opera isn’t actually inaccessible or stodgy?
In reality, the opera experience includes impressive set design and colorful costumes that are on par with any Broadway production and showcases vocal performances that make American Idol contestants sound like an elementary school choir.
From April 13 – 21st, the Minnesota Opera is featuring Turandot. The plotline: solve three riddles — or die trying. Admit it, now you’re intrigued.
Turandot features a chorus of singers and dancers that flow onto the stage. Their precise movements and remarkable vocal abilities will hold your attention until they’re gone, just as smoothly as they arrived. When a stage full of singers belts out their operatic notes, the effect physically resonates through the Ordway. The sound embraces you — and if you’re like me, you’ll close your eyes to feel and hear its full effect.
The opera requires use of your imagination -- reading subtitles (the librettos are often sung in Italian), following the plotline (sorry, the opera isn’t going to spoon feed it to you like a Hollywood blockbuster) and listening to the incredible music that these performers and musicians are able to create.
Princess Turandot - Irina Rindzuner and and Calaf, the unknown prince - Adam Laurence Herskowitz in Minnesota Opera production of Turandot music by Giacomo Puccini
Turandot is an opera in three acts. The story is set in Peking and involves handsome Prince Calàf who falls in love with the cold Princess Turandot. To obtain permission to marry her, a suitor must solve three riddles and any false answer results in the loss of his head. Viewers sit on the edge of their seats, eager to see if Calàf passes the test.
Particularly amusing are characters Ping, Pang and Pong (Matthew Opitz, John Robert Lindsey and Brad Benoit, respectively), who function like The Three Stooges. They entertain while they twirl umbrellas in a chorus line, don neon-hued outfits and dig through cabinets that are actually worn on the backs of other performers like backpacks.
Pong, the chief cook - Brad Benoit, Ping, the grand chancellor - Matthew Opitz and Pang, the general purveyor - John Robert Lindsey in Minnesota Opera
The voices of Turandot (Irina Rindzuner and Helen Todd alternate), Liu (Christie Hageman and Kelly Kaduce alternate) and Calàf (Scott Piper and Adam Laurence Herskowitz alternate) are impressive in their abilities to span the octaves and bring forth the deep emotions within the story.
Puccini started writing Turandot in 1924, but died before its completion that same year. Franco Alfano completed the opera in 1926.
Turandot is the final production of the Minnesota Opera’s 50th season and performed at the Ordway for one week only: Saturday, April 13th – Sunday, April 21st.
If you’re interested in meeting other Twin Cities residents who love the opera, you can join Tempo, a membership program for both new and seasoned opera-goers, ages 21-39. Tempo members are eligible for special discounts on opening night performances. For more information visit their website here.
Katie Lajiness earned her Master of Fine Arts in writing from Hamline University and her Bachelor of Arts in film studies from Mount Holyoke College. She is the Film and Gallery/Museum Editor at MXDWELL and lives in St. Paul with her husband.