I attended the October 3th, 2019 performance of the Robert Wilson production of Turandot at the Canadian Opera Company (COC.) Ther performance was well worth attending.
The performance starred Tamara Wilson (Turandot), Sergey Skorokhodov (Calaf), David Leigh (Timur), Joyce El-khoury (Liu), Adrian Timpau (Ping), Julius Ahn (Pang), and Joseph Hu (Pong). The COC Orchestra was lead by Maestro Carlo Rizzi.
The performance uses a minimalist set with the singers using very minimal movements in the style that Rober Wilson is known for. Overall this worked well to me as it allowed the singing and the orchestra to carry the performance and meant that the audience does not have to worry about being distracted nor wowed by the sets the meanings behind how the set is designed. Although there is a wonderfully portrayed series of veins with ice running threw them as the backdrop as Turandot tries to defeat Calaf with her three riddles – this reinforced Turandot as an ice cold Princess – as does a lot of the motionless actions on stage – Turandot is the ice cold centre of the performance, even when she isn’t around!
Ms. Wilson owned her performance as the Princess. Even her stage presence added to her performance. She was truly amazing and was worth the price of admission alone. The rest of the cast were equal to her.
The ending was ambiguous to me. After Turandot tells her father that her lover’s name is ‘Love’, Calaf steps into the darkness along with the chorus leaving Turandot lit on the stage alone. The meaning of this was not clear to me. Has Turandot really been left alone in the end, thus allowing Timur’s cry for revenge over Liu’s death to be avenged? Or is this to mean that Turandot is just so important to everything that was going on that nothing else really mattered? But at least it left me thinking as I left the theatre, which is a good thing.
The only downside in this production, at least to me, was how they handled Ping, Pang, and Pong. The intention from what I had read and saw beforehand was that the production was supposed to make the characters less stereotypical of how Asians were portrayed by Western art. However, I found the characters to act more like toddlers, jumping around the stage and bobbling their heads up and down like they were nothing more than bobbleheads. This seem more offensive than anything. If the characters had been protrayed seriously, as Puccini had written them, they would have made more sense. Putting them in business suits, and have them without any make-up to portray them as being Asian would have worked if they just let them act seriously – they are supposed to be Ministers with presumably some degree of responsibility and should be portrayed that way to make more sense.
Turandot runs until October 27th, 2019 at the Four Seasons Centre. If you can get a ticket, go. You will not be disappointed.