Turandot

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Puccini’s epic tale centers around the Princess Turandot, who decapitates each suitor who fails to answer her riddles. Calaf falls in love with the ruthless Princess and heroically wins her ghastly game. Shockingly, Calaf proposes his own riddle to the Princess and puts his love and life in the hands of Turandot.

Italian tenor Gianluca Terranova will sing the role of Calaf. Marcy Stonikas will sing Turandot. Music Director Arthur Fagen will conduct. Production by French-Canadian duo Renaud Doucet and André Barbe. Co-production of Minnesota Opera, Seattle Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Cincinnati Opera.

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

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Get the Feeling of the Show

Pre-Opera Talk by Carter Joseph

Total time estimate: 2 hours 45 minutes

Sung in Italian
Supertitles in English

The Music Takes You Beyond the Words…

“Nessun dorma” (“None shall sleep”):

Turandot has decreed that “none shall sleep” until the name of the Unknown Prince is revealed. In this aria in the final act, Calaf declares his love for Princess Turandot, and says that only he will reveal himself as the Prince.

Luciano Pavarotti; Zubin Mehta: London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Alldis Choir

Synopsis

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettist: Adami, Giuseppe/Simoni, Renato
Premiere Date: Sunday, April 25, 1926

Act I
Turandot, daughter of Emperor Altoum, has decreed that she will only marry if a suitor of noble blood can answer three riddles. If he cannot, the price shall be his head. The most recent candidate, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon’s rising. In the commotion outside the palace a blind man falls to the ground, and his companion, Liù, asks for help. They are aided by a disguised Calaf, who recognizes the man as his long-lost father, Timur, the banished ruler of his land. Calaf, like his father, is running from enemies and concealing his identity, known only as the Unknown Prince. Liù continues to aid Timur even in exile because years before, as she explains, Calaf bestowed a smile upon her.

The people impatiently await the beheading. As the Prince of Persia enters, the crowd is suddenly moved and pleads with the Princess to pardon him. Turandot appears and dispassionately confirms the Prince’s sentence with a silent gesture. Calaf immediately is entranced by her beauty. Timur and Liù try to convince the smitten Calaf that he must leave with them, but he breaks away and attempts to announce himself as a suitor. The three ministers of the Imperial Household, Ping, Pang, and Pong, warn him of his folly, but to no avail. In one final attempt, Liù begs him to listen, but Calaf ignores her entreaties and ceremoniously rings the gong, signifying his challenge for Turandot’s hand.

Act II
Ping, Pang, and Pong prepare for the eventuality of a wedding or a funeral. They discuss their misery since Turandot reached the marriageable age, numbering the many noble suitors who have met a deadly fate and reminiscing about life in their native provinces. Is there truly a man whose passion can melt Turandot’s icy heart? Their hopes are guarded.

A crowd assembles for the Trial of the Three Enigmas. Turandot devised this system to avenge her ancestress, Lo-u Ling, who was captured, raped, then put to death by marauding invaders. She offers Calaf one last chance to withdraw, but he stands firm in his resolve. The first question is offered: “What is born each night and dies each dawn?” Calaf correctly answers “Hope.” Slightly taken aback, Turandot poses the next riddle: “What flares warm like a flame, yet it is no flame?” Calaf hesitates, then answers perfectly “Blood.” Visibly shaken, Turandot asks the final question: “The ice that gives you fire, what can it be?” Calaf tarries, then triumphantly cries “Turandot!” The people celebrate his victory, but Turandot pleads with the emperor not to be given to this unknown prince. Seeing her distress Calaf decides to play her game and offers a riddle of his own: “If before morning you can discover the name I bear, I shall forfeit my life.”

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Act III
It is decreed that none shall sleep, under penalty of death, until the name of the Unknown Prince is discovered. Calaf expresses his conviction that he alone will reveal the secret. Ping, Pang, and Pong offer any prize, including his safe escape, if he tells them his name. Having been seen with Calaf, Timur and Liù are captured, and at Turandot’s request Timur is to be tortured until he reveals the truth. Liù steps forward and says that she knows the prince’s name but will keep it as her eternal secret. She grabs a soldier’s dagger and kills herself. Calaf reproaches the Princess for her cruelty and then takes hold of her and boldly kisses her. Turandot’s strength and desire for revenge leave her, and she weeps for the first time. Calaf reveals his true identity, thereby putting his life in Turandot’s hands. Trumpets announce the arrival of dawn and the assembly of the court. Turandot addresses the emperor and the people: “I have discovered the stranger’s name — it is Love!”

Courtesy of The Minnesota Opera

Newbie Guide

The Opera Experience

Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.

Supertitles

Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

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Pre-Performance Talk

Learn about the history of the opera and the composer with board member and opera aficionado, Carter Joseph. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!

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Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

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How is an Opera Staged?

Auditions

Actors first audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.

Rehearsals

Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.

Sets & Costumes

The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.

Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal

The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Characters & Cast

Turandot

The icy princess who decapitates each suitor who fails to answer her riddles.

Marcy Stonikas

American soprano Marcy Stonikas makes her debut with The Atlanta Opera in the role she recently performed at Seattle Opera and Cincinnati Opera.

Calaf

The son of Timur who falls for Turandot and solves her riddle, only to present her with one of his own.

Gianluca Terranova

Internationally acclaimed tenor Gianluca Terranova, who made his Atlanta debut in La bohème, returns to Atlanta to sing the role of Calaf for the first time in his career.

Liù

Love-sick slave girl who loves Calaf (although he does not feel the same) and assists Timur.

Kelly Kaduce

Soprano Kelly Kaduce returns to The Atlanta Opera in the role of Liù. She recently sang the role of Mimì in La bohème at Boston Lyric Opera, and Anna Sørensen in Silent Night at Opera Philadelphia.

Pang

Part of the opera’s comedic threesome, Pang attempts to persuade Calaf not to pursue Turandot.

Julius Ahn

Versatile tenor Julius Ahn delights audiences around the world with his unique interpretations, including his signature role: Goro in Madama Butterfly.

Pong

A third part of the opera’s comedic threesome, Pong is the head chef of the palace.

Joseph Hu

Taiwanese-American Joseph Hu is one of America’s important character tenors, known for his interpretations of both Pang and Pong in Turandot, as well as Mime in Das Rheingold.

Ping

One third of the opera’s comedic threesome, Ping is the Grand Chancellor and serves Princess Turandot.

Daniel Belcher

Grammy Award-winning baritone Daniel Belcher has performed in many of the world’s music capitals, including Paris, London, and New York, and makes his Atlanta Opera debut in the role of Ping.

Timur

Father of Calaf and a former king, Timur is now a blind old man wandering the world with the slave girl Liù.

Steven Humes

International bass Steven Humes performs on the greatest opera stages in the world, most recently at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and later this year in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Costume & Set Design

Composer

Giacomo Puccini
(1858 – 1924)

Puccini emerged into the twentieth century music world as the “King of Verismo,” not through the conducting background of Mascagni or through the skilled compositional ability of Giordano, but as a master of theater. Puccini wrote solely for the operatic stage and he understood the dramatic intensity and melodic poignancy of real life subject matter. Critics have sometimes dismissed his work as overly impassioned, melodramatic, and sentimental. The composer himself proclaimed, “The only music I can make is that of small things,” although he admired the grander stylistic abilities of Verdi and Wagner. Despite that admiration, Puccini chose to concentrate on life’s familiar bittersweet passions and intense emotional storms.

Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy and descended from a long line of musicians, conductors, and composers. It was assumed he would inherit the talent and interest to continue in his family’s chosen craft. At the tender age of six years, upon his father’s premature death, he fell heir to the position of choir master and organist at San Martino Church and professor of music at Collegio Ponziano. However, plans to preserve these posts for the young Puccini may as well have been canceled the day he hiked thirteen miles to the city of Pisa to witness a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s latest work, Aida. He determined his own future at that moment, falling completely under the spell of opera, never to recover.

A stipend from a wealthy great-uncle and a scholarship from Queen Margherita herself supported Puccini in his education at the music conservatory in Milan. The great composers Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli taught the young musician; Ponchielli eventually encouraging Puccini’s participation in a one-act opera competition sponsored by the publishing house of Sonzogno. Friends of Ponchielli even provided the libretto. Unfortunately, Puccini’s first opera, La Villi , didn’t take the prize. However, the powerful critic/librettist, Arrigo Boito, raised funds for its performance before appreciative audiences at La Scala and Ricordi published the score. The modest success bolstered Puccini’s confidence, but provided little compensation. A second opera, Edgar , failed as the result of a poor libretto.

Puccini’s persistence was rewarded with the production of Manon Lescaut . Premiered in February 1893 in Turin, the opera proved a resounding triumph. Puccini was suddenly established as a wealthy composer and artistic successor to Maestro Giuseppi Verdi. The two operas that followed, La Bohème  and Tosca, achieved success gradually with Bohème peaking after three productions and Tosca, after five years of presentations throughout Europe.

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As Puccini acquired substantial wealth, he took on the persona which accompanied him throughout the rest of his life as the “grand seigneur.” He built a reputation as a dedicated game hunter, collector of cars and motor boats, and a great romantic figure. “I am almost always in love!,” he declared, and defined himself as “a mighty hunter of wild fowl, operatic librettos and attractive women.” His appreciation and compassion for women abounds in the substance of his operatic heroines, their valiant struggles and, most often, melancholy demise. He created these elegant, three-dimensional characters with the material of sweet and haunting melody. The innocent Mimi, embattled Tosca, abandoned Butterfly, embittered Turandot – each one a fascinating study in feminine psychology, each the perfect counterpart to an equally interesting tenor role. Puccini’s own stormy relationship with Elvira Gemignani evoked a certain horror in fans and attracted something of a lurid interest from the general public. A married woman, she eloped with the composer and they were not married until some time after her husband’s death. Seemingly an uninteresting and strangely unchallenging partner, she is said to have limited Puccini intellectually and emotionally, inexplicably cutting him off from most personal relationships with friends and other artists.

Eventually, she embroiled the household in scandal, hounding a young maid unmercifully with accusations of a liaison with her husband. The girl committed suicide and Elvira was jailed for five months. The Puccinis separated, then reconciled, but their relationship was forever damaged. Puccini fought hard to keep his difficult private life private, against impossible odds. “What a subject for an opera!,” one social columnist exclaimed. During this tragic episode, despite his obvious emotional turmoil, the composer completed the opera La Fanciulla del West , which met with immediate acclaim.

In general, Puccini seems to have lived in artistic isolation. Even a productive relationship with Arturo Toscanini blew hot and cold. In one comic exchange, Puccini forgot he and Toscanini were currently estranged and sent a Christmas pannetone. Realizing the error, Puccini wired Toscanini with an explanation:

PANNETONE SENT BY MISTAKE, PUCCINI.

Toscanini immediately replied:

PANNETONE EATEN BY MISTAKE, TOSCANINI.

It was Toscanini who conducted the famous opening night of Madama Butterfly , which ran in its original form for that one performance only. After serious reworking, including changing the basic framework from two acts to three and replacing some objectionable arias with more melodic ones, Butterfly triumphed in a new opening under the baton of Arturo Toscanini.

In the single decade before his death, Puccini completed La Rondine , and the trilogy of Il Tabarro , Suor Angelica andGianni Schicchi . He was in the process of finishing Turandot , the opera he considered his crowning achievement, when a persistent throat ailment was diagnosed as cancer. He died a few days after surgery and completion of the work was left to colleague, Franco Alfano. Shortly before his death, Puccini wrote that the music audience had lost its taste for melody and tolerated music devoid of logic and sensibility. He predicted “the end of opera” and, in fact, Turandot , was the last opera to rank as an internationally accepted standard repertory piece. No one since Puccini has enjoyed such a following.

Courtesy Arizona Opera Virtual Opera House

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Conductor

 Arthur Fagen

Arthur Fagen has been the Carl and Sally Gable Music Director at The Atlanta Opera since 2010, and continues to be in great demand as a conductor of symphony and opera both in Europe and the United States. He is a regular guest at the most prestigious opera houses, concert halls, and music festivals at home and abroad, and his career has been marked by a string of notable appearances including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Staatsoper Berlin, Munich State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the New York City Opera.

A former assistant of Christoph von Dohnanyi (Frankfurt Opera) and James Levine (Metropolitan Opera), he served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, as chief conductor of the Flanders Opera of Antwerp and Ghent, as music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the conducting staff of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Fagen was born in New York and studied with Laszlo Halasz, Max Rudolf (Curtis Institute) and Hans Swarowsky. Fagen has an opera repertoire of more than 75 works and has recorded for Naxos and BMG. The recent Naxos recording of Martinůs works was awarded Editor’s Choice in the March 2010 issue of Gramophone Magazine.

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Stage Director & Choreographer, Set & Costume Designer

 Renaud Doucet & André Barbe

After separate beginnings in dance, theatre, television, and the opera field, Renaud Doucet, stage director & choreographer, and André Barbe, set & costume designer, joined forces in 2000. Since then they created together over 20 new opera productions. Their work as a team gained recognition with their new productions, including: Cendrillon by Massenet at l’Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg & l’Opéra de Marseille (France), the Viennese premiere of The Sound of Music and Turandot at the Volksoper Wien (Austria), and most recently Turandot at Seattle Opera & Minnesota Opera, La Cenerentola at the Hamburgische Staatsoper and Die Feen for the Richard Wagner’s celebrations at Oper Leipzig in coproduction with the Bayreuther Festspiele.

Trained musician Renaud Doucet began his performing career as a solo dancer, ballet master, and choreographer in international dance companies. He was introduced to the opera world as baroque choreographer & baroque gesture specialist coaching singers like Alfredo Kraus, Jaime Aragall, Raina Kabaivanska or Mirella Freni. He also worked as an actor in various movies & TV series. In the United States & Canada he staged & choreographed La bohèmeAidaLes pêcheurs de perles, Die Fledermaus, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Tosca, Carmen, l’Elisir d’amore, Les dialogues des Carmélites, Le Trouvère (in the French version), La traviata, La Belle Hélène, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, The Tempest, Turandot.

André Barbe received a bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia University then studied at the National Theatre School of Canada under the tutelage of designer François Barbeau. Up to now he designed over 300 productions for Theatre, Television and Opera. He received the Irish Times Irish Theatre Award 2005 for best set designer for the production of Pénélope at Wexford Festival Opera as well as the 2011 Rolf-Mares Prize for best sets & costumes for the production of La Cenerentola at the Hamburgische Staatsoper.

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