Puccini’s Turandot Saves the Best for Last

“En el amor los errores se pagan caro (In love, errors are paid dearly),” read advertisements for the Municipal Theater of Santiago’s presentation of Turandot. The statement proves to be true for this opera in which love can cost one's life, ranging in style from a bloodthirsty beheading to adoring loyalty.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Teatro Municipal

Turandot was composed by Italian Giacomo Puccini in the 1920s. His three act opera begins with terror in Peking, China due to the pending beheading of a prince. The orders have been sent from the beautiful and cruel Princess Turandot after the prince failed to correctly answer her three riddles, the criterion she set for any man wishing to marry her. Upon seeing Turandot, the forgotten prince Calàf immediately falls in love and, against all counsel, decides to accept Turandot’s challenge of enigmas.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Teatro Municipal

The second act shows the prince, unnamed at this point, defy and conquer Turandot’s test to the amazement of all onlookers. Turandot's reaction is to remorsefully plead her father to help her evade her vow of marriage. In response, the prince presents the self-indulgent princess with his own challenge. If, by the time the sun rises, Turandot learns his name, he will accept death.

The nightlong, citywide search for the prince’s name results fruitless and with the suicide of an innocent slave who loved the prince. The prince attempts to woo Turandot and forces his passionate kisses onto her. As a sign of his love, the prince puts his life in the princess’s hands telling her his name, Calàf. After sunrise, the city awaits the outcome which is Turandot proclaiming that she knows the prince’s name, “Love.”

The theater welcomed the opera on September 15 and housed seven performances through September 28.The Municipal Theater’s opening night presentation with its international cast performed on a permanent stage set of the imperial palace’s exterior and steps. Actors filled the stage for most of the scenes with attire ranging from simple beige drab for the slaves and elegant, colorful gowns with gold accents for the palace folks. The leads were sung by soprano Susan Neves and tenor Piero Giuliacci playing Princess Turandot and Prince Calàf, respectively.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy Teatro Municipal

The voices that stole the show were surprisingly from singers who played two secondary roles. Michail Ryssov’s bass voice as Timur, the dethroned king of Tartary and father of Calàf, left the performance’s patrons wishing he had more parts. Soprano Olga Mykytenko’s moving and powerful vocals as Liù, the slave girl who gave her life for the prince, stole the scene every time she sang.

The performance followed the opera’s tradition of saving the best for last (referring to the opera’s third act, signature tenor piece “Nessun Dorma”). The stage’s set called for a change in adornments and more complex lighting that turned the now familiar palace exterior into a mystic moonlit garden. The transformation set the mood to deliver the impact by love that takes place in the final act.

The opera’s stay in Santiago was accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra and directed by Jan Latham-Koenig. In addition to its international production, select dates also had performances by its stellar cast directed by José Luis Domínguez.

Teatro Municipal de Santiago
Agustinas 794, Santiago
Metro stop: Plaza de Armas

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