Monday, March 13, 2017

"Turandot" - A Blockbuster Opera to Dazzle Benedum Stage

Alexandra Loutsion Stars as Turandot Credit; David Bachman for Pittsburgh Opera

Pittsburgh Opera continues its 78th season with Puccini’s masterpiece Turandot, at the Benedum Center March 25 – April 2.

Set in ancient China, Turandot is one of the most popular operas of all time - a lavish production full of dazzling sets and costumes, beautiful music, and epic singing.

The opera's story involves Prince Calaf, who falls in love with the icy Princess Turandot. To marry her, he must solve three riddles; a single wrong answer results in death.

Alexandra Loutsion Plays Turandot Credit: David Bach man
Alexandra Loutsion makes her long-awaited role debut as Princess Turandot. Thiago Arancam makes his Pittsburgh Opera debut as her suitor Calaf, having sung the role previously in Auckland, Caracas, and Naples, Florida.

Even first-time opera-goers will recognize Calaf’s powerful aria "Nessun dorma," which is a staple of dramatic cinematic moments, sporting events, and Italian tire commercials alike.

Set in ancient China, Turandot is an all-time favorite. The opera's story involves Prince Calaf, who falls in love with the icy Princess Turandot, played by Alexandra Loutsion.

To obtain permission to marry Turandot, a suitor has to solve three riddles; a single wrong answer results in death. Prince Calaf is dazzled by Turandot's beauty and wants to attempt to solve her three riddles. His father Timur, and Timur’s servant Liù- who is secretly in love with the Prince- plead with him in vain not to attempt the riddles.

 Thiago Arancam Plays Calaf Credit: David Bachyman
Calaf correctly solves the riddles, but Turandot still refuses to marry him. Calaf offers her a way out: learn his name before dawn, and he will die after all. Believing that no one will reveal his name, the Prince waits for dawn and anticipates his victory, singing his famous aria "Nessun dorma".

Turandot realizes that Liù knows Calaf’s name, and attempts to torture it out of her. Liù withstands the torturing, declares that she will not reveal his name, then seizes a dagger from a soldier's belt and stabs herself.

The Prince reproaches Turandot for her cruelty, then takes her in his arms and kisses her. Turandot feels herself falling for him and is conflicted. She admits that, ever since he came, she has both hated and loved him.  She asks him to leave, taking his secret name with him. The Prince however, reveals his name and places his life in Turandot's hands. Ultimately, she realizes she loves him too, and spares his life. The lovers embrace while the crowd rejoices.

Renaud Doucet directs. Antony Walker conducts.

Tickets start at just $12 and are available online at or by phoning 412-456-6666.

Sat, March 25, 2017 * 8:00 PM
Tue, March 28, 2017  * 7:00 PM
Fri, March 31, 2017 * 7:30 PM
Sun, April 2, 2017  * 2:00 PM
Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 237 7th Street, downtown Pittsburgh

Run time: 2 hours, 32 minutes, including two intermissions

Sung in Italian with English texts projected above the stage
Opera Up Close (March 12th)
Brown Bag Concert (March 18th)
WQED Preview (March 18th & 24th)
Meet the Artists (March 28th)
Audio Commentary (March 28th)

Maria Luigia Borsi Plays Liu Credit: David Bachman
Fascfnating Facts about the Opera:

The “Nessun Dorma” (English translation “No one shall sleep”) is one of the most famous, dramatic, and well-known arias in opera history. Luciano Pavarotti famously performed it at the 1990 World Cup, and reprised it at his last-ever performance, at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. It has been featured at climactic moments in movies ranging from Bend it Like Beckham, The Sum of All Fears, and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (where it occurred during a performance of the opera in Vienna), as well as a famous Pirelli tire commercial.

This marks the role debut for Alexandra Loutsion as Turandot. Ms. Loutsion grew up in Canonsburg, PA, home to Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. She is an alumna, not just of the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist program, but also the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus (formerly Children’s Festival Chorus) and the Junior Mendelssohn Choir. The role is famously difficult, and takes such a toll on the vocal chords that singers specialize in it knowing they are risking a shortened career.
Turandot was Puccini’s final opera. In fact, he died shortly before he could complete it.

The ending was composed by Franco Alfano. During the world premiere opening night in 1926, conductor Arturo Toscanini stopped the performance where Puccini finished writing, telling the audience “Here the Maestro laid down his pen."

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