Tuesday, October 3

Turandot – Arcola Theatre

From the 19th of July, the Grimeborn Opera Festival returns for the sixteenth year, featuring twelve operas from across the globe. This professional production of Puccini’s final opera, set in China and rooted in Central and East Asian literature, has an entire cast from the Asian diaspora. This reimagining explores the toxicity of online obsession in the face of human tragedy, as Calaf is lured into a virtual, addictive world by the imperious digital fantasy princess Turandot.

Turnadot is often remembered for the famous rendition of “Nessun Dorma.” by Luciano Pavarotti. When one thinks of operas, one imagines massive sets with casts of 70 plus in the chorus and an entire live orchestra. But this recreation creates a unique alchemy with intentional gaze, elegant costume and light projection, allowing the petite stage to transform into a magnum opus. It is fitting that an opera set in China is also played entirely by actors of the Asian Diaspora. The entire opera is sung in Italian, with helpful subtitles projected for the audience to dart between the action and the meaning.

Turandot (1926) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini that centres itself on a philandering man who would rather ignore his wife and duties as a son to follow his fascination with another woman. This premise of the opera is outdated and highly pedantic. I found the AI-generated images not doing justice to the poetry it tried to tango with. The first act captures the tension between the Father-son relationship with emotion and concern. Though they try to project, Turnadot transformed from a princess of the original opera into a geeky, addictive game. Given the brutality of Chinese Internet addiction clinics, the premise is quite believable.

However, the opera comes alive with the chorus of women chiding the man for his choices. The story hits home with the soul-crumbling rendition by Heming Li as Liu, whose signature of love as surrender and letting go is very moving. Special mention to Reiko Fukuda for bringing alive Turandot with gestures, nails and rib-cracking voice. All of the ensemble members shined through with their professional overtures of synchronised harmony that are a delight to witness.

One might argue, in this day and age, who will watch opera? But then you witness the spellbound audience not moving in the 90 minutes with no empty seats in the auditorium, and Arcola theatre has done it again, we are all ‘Burnt by the flames of love’. One departs from the theatre ‘Moonlight Kissed’ by this old but familiar story and hopes ‘everything will blossom’ despite draconian Chinese laws irradicating human rights every day in their country and we all hailing rulers who don’t serve its people. Turandot, must not be missed for the sheer talent it has mastered on the stage and finally reclaimed its rightful place.

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 25th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.