Turandot: A Multi-Faceted Gem

Portland Opera’s latest offering is a sublime visual stunner, but the story has two sides.

By Anne Adams February 7, 2011


Culturephile caught the Superbowl Sunday performance of Turandot, and simply couldn’t wait to show you photos. Please peruse the slide show to the left for a taste of the jewel-toned pageantry.

Turandot is not a love story; it’s two love stories, one uplifting, and the other downright depressing. As you go into Valentine’s Day weekend, very possibly with plans to imbibe this gorgeously-staged opera, bear in mind that there are two ways to view the Puccini classic:

True love conquers all.
Calaf knows he loves Princess Turandot, and hence, cannot be dissuaded from pursuing her. He’s confident that his love has the power to solve Turandot’s three riddles, and withstand any other tests she might put him through. After all, they are fated to be together—so despite the appearance of danger, he can’t actually go wrong. Meanwhile, his love, Turandot, has been whiling away her time whimsically beheading other suitors. (It’s not that she’s a bad person; she just hasn’t found “the one.”) But once Calaf administers a sufficient dose of amoré , Turandot’s bloodthirst abates, and in its place flowers passionate, warm sensuality.

A triumphant tale of a confident, steadfast man, following his heart through tests and trials, to heal a wounded woman.

Love is blind.
In his pursuit of the cruel, seemingly-unattainable Principessa, Calaf ignores the selfless affections of his father’s nurse, Líu, a woman who has already proven her loyalty and virtue by following her aging master into exile. When the callous, overconfident Calaf wiggles into a tight spot with his courtship of the beheader, Turandot threatens and tortures Liu, and Liu volunteers to be executed in order to maintain Calaf’s honor. Líu dies crawling at Calaf’s feet, freeing him to give his love to a narcissistic murderess.

The tragic story of a deluded man who chooses to court a mysterious, glamorous, dangerous femme fatale, at the fatal expense of a faithful and virtuous woman.

Any thoughts on the themes of Turandot? Portland Opera’s production is luminous and intriguing, any way you look at it.

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