Friday, October 4, 2019

Turandot for Today

Puccini, who loved Asian culture and found great inspiration there, is now considered to be a racist. From CBC:
Even if you've never set foot in an opera house, you've likely heard Nessun Dorma from the opera Turandot. One of the opera world's instantly recognizable arias, Nessun Dorma (None shall sleep) has also had crossover success: it's Hollywood's soundtrack shorthand for bombastic, climatic scenes; a soccer stadium favourite, and a staple for male singers eager to show off their vocal chops. Aretha Franklin — as a last-minute replacement enlisted to deliver ailing tenor Luciano Pavarotti's signature tunetore down the 1998 Grammy Awards with her rendition.

An opera house go-to, Turandot is being seen by a wider audience than ever, but that increased exposure has also meant that Giacomo Puccini's final work has joined other classic operas being re-examined through a modern lens. As the Canadian Opera Company readies to present its new Turandot, the company is grappling with how to stage the mythical, pan-Asian tale set in a China of Puccini's imagination. Productions of the opera have been criticized for showcasing singers in "yellowface," depictions of racial stereotypes, and Orientalism. When recalling past productions of Turandot he's seen, Toronto performer Richard Lee is blunt. "It's offensive," he said. (Read more.)


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