Toronto – After a 15-year wait for music lovers, Puccini’s Turandot returns to the Canadian Opera Company in a striking new production from visionary director Robert Wilson at the Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts. Princess Turandot has a fierce reputation that precedes her royal name thanks to a high-stakes challenge she has issued: answer her three riddles correctly and win her hand in marriage. Answer incorrectly and pay dearly – with your life. As a steady stream of admirers land face-to-face with the executioner, Prince Calaf takes on the deadly game and has a mystery of his own for Turandot to solve. Turandot runs for nine performances on September 28, October 4, 9, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25, 27, 2019.
Wilson is a renowned multidisciplinary artist who has collaborated with a wide range of cultural icons including composer Philip Glass, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and singer/songwriter Lady Gaga. For this highly anticipated COC debut, he teams up with co-director Nicola Panzer to lend his innovative visual artistry to one of opera’s biggest blockbusters. With clean lines and sleek minimalism, Wilson and co-designer Stephanie Engeln have created a modern, abstract set that creates space for audiences to experience and react to Turandot’s story in their own unique way. With co-lighting designer John Torres, he paints the stage in dramatic chiaroscuro and, against this backdrop, costumes by Jacques Reynaud create striking figures, cloaked in rich colour, shape, and texture. Makeup by Manu Halligan has been thoughtfully designed to accentuate the slightest of changes in expression, providing subtle insights into each character’s state of mind; and Tomek Jeziorski completes the creative team as the production’s video artist.
American soprano and Richard Tucker Award-winner Tamara Wilson shares the title role with soprano Marjorie Owens, in role debuts for both artists. In Wilson’s last COC appearance as Desdemona in Otello this past spring, NOW Magazine predicted her “powerful, full-bodied soprano… bodes well for her turn as Turandot.” Opera News has praised Owens for her “star quality” and “vocal stamina” – two attributes that will certainly serve her well in this role.
Russian tenor Sergey Skorokhodov brings his “clear, glowing focal point as a soloist” (Texas Classical Review) to his COC main stage debut as the daring Calaf; Skorokhodov shares the role with Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev, who returns to Toronto after singing Cavaradossi in the COC’s Tosca in 2017. American bass David Leigh returns to Toronto after making his COC debut in the world premiere of Hadrian (2018); he shares the role of Calaf’s father, the vanquished King Timur, with Turkish bass Önay Köse. Lebanese-Canadian soprano and Juno Award nominee Joyce El-Khoury was recently praised for the “extraordinary intensity” (The Telegraph) she brought to Roberto Devereux at Welsh National Opera; she and Colombian-American soprano Vanessa Vasquez, whose voice is full of “creamy, opulent tones” (Broadway World), share the role of devoted Liù.
For this production, the names of Turandot’s three ministers have been changed to align with the creative team’s vision for a more abstract Turandot that moves away from previous iterations while preserving Wilson’s Vaudeville influences for the trio’s characterization. Moldovan baritone Adrian Timpau, praised for his “smooth base and ringing timbre” (Bachtack), is Jim (originally Ping); Korean-American tenor Julius Ahn brings his “lithe, multi-faceted” (Opera News) performance skills to the role of Bob (originally Pang); and Taiwanese-American tenor Joseph Hu rounds out the ensemble with his “fine singing” (Pittsburgh Post- Gazette) as Bill (originally Pong). London-born tenor Adrian Thompson brings his “indefatigable” (Opera Magazine) power of performance to the role to Emperor Altoum.
Bass-baritone Joel Allison, of Ottawa, is in his second year of the COC Ensemble Studio, a career-changing training program for emerging opera talent; he will be singing the role of the Mandarin, while Toronto-based tenor, and first-year Ensemble Studio member, Matthew Cairns makes his COC main stage debut as the Prince of Persia.
Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi has been lauded by singers and audiences alike for his mastery of the operatic craft; he leads the COC Orchestra through a score that was designed to thrill and that features the widely-performed classical crossover masterpiece, “Nessun dorma.” The COC Chorus, led by Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst, performs some of opera’s most epic music together with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.
Turandot is sung in Italian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.
Turandot is a COC co-production with Teatro Real Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, and the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Vilnius.
TICKET INFORMATION Single tickets for Turandot range from $35 – $250 with Grand Ring seats available at $290 and $350. Tickets are on sale now, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). $22 tickets are available for guests between the ages of 16 and 29 through the COC’s Opera Under 30 program and other specially priced tickets are available to young people under the age of 15. For more information on booking student groups, standing room, and rush tickets, please visit coc.ca.
When I think of Turandot, I think of Patricia Arquette sending Nicholas Cage on a wild goose chase to win her heart. If he could get her “J.D. Salinger’s autograph, a black orchid and a Bob’s Big Boy statue — a Caddy-size piece of fiberglass sculpture,” she would grant him her heart. In the case of Princess Turandot, death was the gift to her suitor if he was unsuccessful. Indeed dark but the drama is worth it on a Friday night at the Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts with the Canadian Opera Company.
The staging experienced at Turandot was stark and intimidating at best. Not the norm for the Canadian Opera Company. Turandot demanded it. The vibe in the room echoed that you weren’t invited to the party but it was fine that you were sitting in a dark seat away from the popular kids. The costumes and make up were maniacal and isolating. Think lurid reds, midnight black, dull silver, angry armour along with corpse white faces, black slashed eye makeup and draping garments that oozed historical Asian nods. Consider your dreams to be effected by the gothic colours in the days to follow.
American soprano, Tamara Wilson, plays Princess Turandot. Wilson is truly a force to be reckoned with. The audience will feel winded listening to the depth of her performance. At times gutt wrenching, venomic and heartache facing. How can you not relate?
Russian tenor, Sergey Skorokhodov, plays Prince Calaf and demonstrates to the audience quietly eloquent strife. Lebanese-Canadian soprano, Joyce El-Khoury, plays Liù and brings her blood curdling contributions that only amplifies the hues of red on stage.
Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi work was a treat to take in whilst exhaling the “Nessun dorma.” Be sure to enjoy the COC Chorus, led by Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst, performs some of opera’s most epic music together with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. The layering of craftsmanship from these three groups of artists added a dimension not often experienced in a traditional piece of operatic work.
Be sure to enjoy Turandot with the Canadian Opera Company before it wraps up before Halloween. It will be sure to exercise your opera knowledge and creative soul.