Words by Joseph E. Morgan
Tennessee Performing Arts Center | October 8 and 10
On October 8 the Nashville Opera opens its 2015–16 season with a production of what is arguably Giacomo Puccini’s greatest opera, Turandot. Composed late in Puccini’s life, Turandot employs an aesthetic that straddles two centuries and features a stage production that requires an army of players. It contains some of the most spectacularly exotic scenes in opera as well as one of the most famous staples of the operatic tenor repertoire, “Nessun Dorma.” As such this production promises to be a delight for the eyes and ears of the Nashville audience.
Based on the fable by Carlo Gozzi and set in a mythical ancient China, Turandot tells the story of the beautiful but bloodthirsty Princess and the Prince that just might win her hand. The libretto was assembled by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, with the purpose of “modernizing and bringing human warmth to the old cardboard figures” of Gozzi’s tale. However, at Puccini’s direction, the librettists retained the mannerist masks of the Chinese fairytale as a foil to this Italian Romanticism. In order to transform Andrew Jackson Hall into this mythical setting, the production promises elaborate sets and costumes towards which Nashville Opera’s General and Artistic Director, John Hoomes, has assembled a cast and crew that features
. . . more than 200 [including] principal singers, adult and children’s chorus members, supernumeraries, orchestra, designers, and stage crew.
Maestro Joseph Mechavich is leading the Nashville Opera Orchestra for this production. Puccini’s score holds some of his most sophisticated and modernist musical conceptions in which the lush orchestration and alternative harmonic languages (including bitonal, modal, and pentatonic expressions) function hand in hand to create a sophisticated network of leitmotiv reference. A successful premiere will set a very high bar for the rest of the season.
For the title role, a legendary part made famous by Birgit Nilsson and Maria Callas, Nashville Opera has brought in the Canadian American soprano Othalie Graham, whom we last saw in Nashville for the 2012 production of Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. For the equally celebrated tenor role, famously sung by Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, they’ve brought in up-and-coming tenor Jonathan Burton. Pay attention to the final two sung notes of his Act Three aria, “Nessun Dorma.” If sung well, these notes are two of the brightest fireworks in the Italian operatic sky.
The Nashville Opera presents Turandot October 8 and 10 in Andrew Jackson Hall at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and will feature a free preview talk by Director Hoomes one hour before each performance. For more information, visit www.nashvilleopera.org.