Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chinatown on Ice

Today, November 25 2012, at 19:00, the Munich BSO will live stream their recent production of Turandot, directed by La Fura dels Baus. The story was recounted intelligently giving this opera a breath of life, traditionalists hated it -- which means that it is probably worth watching.

Masters for the positively spectacular shows -- from Turandot by La Fura dels Baus

Even if synonymous for a mix of pompous and pathos, Turandot is nevertheless one of the least annoying operas by Puccini. Unfortunately it is far too often reduced to a parade of kitsch culminated by the Turandot's scream-fest [In questa reggia] to appreciate its musical qualities, despite a few well-known arias [Nessun dorma by Kalaf and Signore, ascolta!/Tu che di gel sei cinta by Liu].

A much-much better Turandot opera --in my opinion-- is the one by Ferruccio Busoni that we were privileged to see last year in Dijon, in a terrific production by Cisco Aznar and with terrific Sabine Hogrefe (Turandot) and Thomas Piffka (Kalaf). 

So for La Fura it might be good fun after all. Ah yes, if you did not listen to Yonghoon Lee singing before then you should definitely tune in tonight at 19:00 (CET) and watch the show on this link!

Dir- Carlus Padrisa (La Fura dels Baus), cnd- Marco Armiliato, Cast: Iréne Theorin, Yonghoon Lee, Serena Farnocchia, Alastair Miles, Markus Eiche...


Trailer and an interview with Carlus Padrisa (who explains the main lines of his production) are attached below.

  • Basic idea that we're all just a big Chinatown (China already owns most of the EU debt) is interesting, with Turandot being an icy form of "Big Brother" -- is interesting! Scenically  so far the show looks more like a part of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympic Games than an opera production.
  • 20 mins later... now it's less Olympics -- more opera production. Puccini is definitely not my cup of tea, but the cast is really doing a great job (Yonghoon rocks!)
  • Here comes Liu and her annoying aria :) j/k  Cool singing by Serena [Brava!] and a beautiful staging -- well conveying the basic idea by FDB! 
  • End of Act 1. Good that it was short. I already started yawning... Time for double Nespresso/ristretto. 25mins break. 
  • Act 2 started with impressive visuals, although the message is very pessimistic. I hope there is nothing prophetic in this interpretation... 
  • The show returned into its Olympic mode. Musically, to be honest, it's on the edge of what I would qualify as bearable...
  • Go Yonghoon!
  • At last comes Iréne Theorin "to shout" her aria -- encircled by Tbytes of video imagery. OK, she did not shout but actually sang In questa reggia and we liked her ;) Plus the music in this section is much better than in other parts of this opera... Even the drama picks up in this part.
  • It's fairly kitschy but I'm grateful to the production team for not including any red lantern into decor!
  • End of Act 2. It's all good --I'm still watching the show-- although I suffered during the first part of Act 2. 20 mins break!
  • Act 3 opens with very Olympic visuals again... 
  • Yonghoon Lee killed it! Bravissimo!
  • This opera really contains most of the stuff I don't like in opera.  Act 3 is unbearably cheesy; plus all the kitch... No! A few months ago I saw the excerpts from the atrocious production of Tosca in London (ROH) and I thought that was the absolute bottom of Puccini in the 21st century. Turandot is even more 'pathossy'. Puccini i not for me. All these costumes, extras, choruses, hugely opulent decors... for what?! They could have produced 3 decent operas for the cost of this one... 
  • Cast was great though! The show was very Opening/Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games, at times very cheesy too, although the ground idea was  interesting. 
  • This was proof of a "No Go" theorem for me as far as Puccini operas are concerned. Good news: Yonghoon Lee is one of the best few lyric tenors in business today!


  1. Sorry, but no. This Turandot is bullshit, and not because it is modern - it is NOT modern. It's just too much money on the stage and no thought on the work: just what people came to see in 19th c. opera houses (or people at the movies today): big show with lots of special effects. You can't love that AND Warlikowski or Simons or Bieito at the same time.

  2. Salut ;)

    No no no! I THOUGHT it would be good and was intrigued by a few (negative) reviews I've read before the webcast.

    But once the show started my positive attitude disappeared. I hated the second part and found the third part excruciating, both for the "Olympics production" and for the dreaded Puccini.

    Sorry if it wasn't clear ;) Cheers

  3. It is always nice to see your blog, convincing me that there should be persistent Warlikowski/Marthaler/... enthusiasts everywhere in the world:-)

    I watched this production in Munich in July (and once again - only partially - on the web) and it was funny to see a very old-fashioned 3d effect with red/blue glasses used (the camera seemed to avoid filming 3d images, but not much difference of course). Yes, it was only a spectacle, quite "operatic" and nothing more.

    Productions of Bayerische Staatsoper in Bachler years rarely convince me, the worst one was Saint François. I hope the new Rigoletto will be better...