By Tamsin Mathias
This weekend, I took my Nan along to The Torch Theatre in Milford Haven to watch Puccini’s fantastic opera, Turandot, beamed live from The Metropolitan Opera in New York.
I’d already seen Turandot before, and was so impresed that when I saw that it was being broadcast again, I jumped at the chance to go see it!
Turandot is based in ancient China, and opens outside the Imperial Palace.
A mandarin reads an edict to the crowd, that any man seeking to marry Princess Turandot must answer three riddles. If he fails, he will die.
After explaining this to my Nan, she agreed that it sounded like it could be fun and agreed to come with me.
Now guys, you know me. The last time I wore a dress was in the summer, and it was by no means formal, but paired with converses. So, I attended the opera in some skinny jeans, a vest top, red check shirt, and some (almost) knee high red converses. That is basically my going out clothes.
My Nan however, is one of the most glamorous ladies I know, and wore a beautiful royal blue dress. After watching the opera, she was off out of the raz at The Royal British Legion, so made sure she was ready for a night out!
After demanding I take £10 off her to buy alcohol, I insisted on using my card so that I could treat her. I bought myself a large Merlot (of course), and my Nan had a white wine spritzer. There was about ten minutes left before it was due to start, so we went into the auditorium to sit down for a few hours.
My Nan was extremely impressed that we could take our drinks in, and looked even more shocked when I revealed that the wine glass she was holding was in fact plastic.
We got to our seats and I, of course, took a pre opera selfie (as you do). As much as I love an opera, I don’t quite enjoy the length of time they take.
The opera starts, and I’m immediately impressed with the quality of the picture, considering it’s being broadcast from half way across the world. No glitches, no muffled sound, no blurriness. It was all perfect!
The opera itself, was obviously amazing. The set looked beautiful, with different levels to give the stage depth. An announcement is made at the beginning that the Prince of Persia must be executed at the moon’s rising (due to getting one of Turdandot’s riddles wrong). The set dark, dirty and crowded with, and is the perfect.
Among the onlookers is Calaf’s long lost father and his slave girl Liu. Liu is the only person who has remained faithful to him, and when Calaf asks why, she says it’s because she smiled at her once (easily pleased).
Princess Turandot arrives to wordlessly order the executioner to behead the Prince, our heroin, Calaf, is transfixed by her beauty of the unattainable princess, and believes it is his destiny to answer Turadot’s three riddles.
Ping, Pang and Pong, Turandot’s ministers, try to discourage him, and one even tells him to: “Go home and bang your head against a wall, but don’t do it here.”
The dialogue is quite amusing throughout really. Not necessarily due to what they are saying it, but the inflection. I don’t know whether the dialogue was written first or the score, but it’s interesting the way the melody moves in contrast to the words they are speaking.
The difference between the set in the first act and the second is huge, and is beautifully regal. It is here, that we’re wondering what exactly it is that Calaf sees in Turandot? She hates men, because one of her ancestors was abducted and killed by a conquering Prince.
It seems as though she doesn’t know that not all men are the same, and therefore forces those wishing to marry her to decide if love is worth dying for. Considering these guys (or Princes, shal I say) haven’t actually met her, I’d say leave her be.
But, for some reason, Calaf is absolutely smitten.
Turandot gives Calaf three riddles, all of which he answers correctly. Turandot then goes crying to Daddy (The Emporer, by the way), asking him not to let him marry her because she really doesn’t want to. Different when the tables are turned, isn’t it! Typical woman.
Now, don’t think that I’m mocking the opera, because I’m really not. I felt like this the first time I watched this, and I felt it again the second. This, to me, means the director has done their job, because that’s what I’m supposed to feel!
Because Calaf is (kind of) a decent guy, he gives Turandot a second chance of being able to send him to slaughter instead of marrying him (nice). He points out the fact that she does not know his name, and says that if she can find out his name by daybreak, he will forfeit his life.
Act two ends, and we are treated to Calaf’s performance of Nessun Dorma in the opening of Act three. It was fantastic. I wish it was a longer piece, because he sang it so well, I wanted to hear more. His voice was superb, and his powerful voice boomed the demanding piece perfectly.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but The Met Opera put together an amazing performance, and it was great that The Torch Theatre could once again be a part of the broadcast, which was beamed to 70 countries worldwide.
Having seen it twice already, I wouldn’t be put off seeing it a third time. I’m now looking forward to returning to The Torch in April, to watch The Royal Ballet perform Giselle (another one that I’ve seen before, which impressed me greatly!)