Ordinary Time 29/Trinity 22 – Friday

[ now playing? ] Final Fantasy XII 4CD OST | “Song of Storm and Fire” – Yuki Kajura (performed by Eminence Symphony Orchestra members) | “Two of Us” – Joe Hisaishi (performed by Eminence Symphony Orchestra members) | “Evangelion: Thanatos” – Eminence Symphony Orchestra | “Moon Over The Castle ~Orchestral Version~” – Masahiro Andoh (Gran Turismo 4 Theme)

Opera Queensland did quite a good job I have to say with the penultimate opera of their 2008 season: Puccini’s Turandot. And yes, I was there last night at QPAC for the 30 Below night. Packed crowd down in the stalls. I was in seat K21 (last time I checked that’s either Deluxe or A Reserve seating) and man, all around me, I saw people, more people and nary an empty seat in the Lyric Theatre at all.

Maestro Peter Robinson and the Queensland Orchestra shone for the entire performance. As the opening bars of Act 1 began, I knew that it was going to be one helluva night from them. Magical.

The set and costumes for the entire night were sublime (full credit to the production team). I have a feeling that a number of women in the audience loved the buff men who were the crack execution team. While walking back to the car afterwards, I heard a number of middle-aged women loving how “Manpower were on stage tonight!” Had to chuckle at that.

The only slight downer on the night for me was Ukranian tenor Marian Talaba. While having a fairly commanding stage presence as Calaf, his voice seemed incredibly weak at first. I was hoping it was simply early in the act softness and that he would open up a bit more as the night went on. Sadly, I found that wasn’t the case. At some points, all you heard when all parts on stage were singing was everyone else bar him. Having said that, in spite of his rather soft volume, he didn’t murder the role of Calaf (including the most well-known aria in opera courtesy of Maestro Pavarotti, “Nessun dorma”). So he still gets an overall thumbs up from me.

The three bozos Ping, Pang & Pong (played respectively by Lucas de Jong, Virgilio Marino & Bernard Hull) were very, very well sung (at least by my standards, and no I don’t have La Scala standards here – I’m not exactly that much of an opera purist). Their trio segment at the beginning of Act 2 was wistful and laughable at times to me. Bunch of 3 old farts lamenting their life now compared to if they were back in their homelands… =P

Cynthia Makris carried the ice-princess role of Turandot exceedingly well and very convincingly. Very, very commanding on stage (and the iciness shattered perfectly at the end of Act 3). You would not want to piss off someone like her Turandot in real-life. Gennadi Dubinsky I loved in OQ’s production of The Magic Flute earlier this year when he was Sarastro and in Turandot, his characterization of the blind Timur was superb on stage (one couldn’t help feeling pity for him, the ex-King of Tartary). Couldn’t ask for much better than Kenneth Collins as the Emperor (I’d have been mighty scared of the height off the stage that he was at).

But hands down, my favorite character in Turandot still remains to be Liù. And Hye Seoung Kwon deserved every bit of the loud ovation she received (and we in the audience gave freely) at the end of the night. She was ever the tragic and smitten slave girl of Timur while Calaf was a right bastard in giving her up for Turandot. Liù’s nobility in love to the point of killing herself so that Calaf won’t have to die by Turandot’s hand was executed with passion, conviction and self-identification by Hye Seoung Kwon to my eyes and ears. I’m curious to see how she will go playing Pamina in The Magic Flute in the 2009 Opera Australia season. Unfortunately, I won’t be in Sydney to watch it live. Dammit!

What does this mean for me re: the 2009 season? I’m damn well renewing my 30 Below subscription, that’s what it means. The A$133 I spent for the 3-opera season this year has got to be some of the best money I’ve spent on entertainment ever (much much better than a night out at the movies!). La traviata, Fidelio and Rigoletto are on next year and all three are in my list of opera favorites (especially Traviata). Fidelio should be rather good (in German to boot too, not an English version like this year’s The Magic Flute was of Die Zauberflote) – I enjoy the recording I have here at home so hopefully the live production will live up to my (somewhat meagre) expectations.

+ Pax,
bf 2235hrs


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