Turandot

Hey internetters! Welcome back to another blog entry. I went to see an opera for the first time, so I wanna tell you about it.

I’ve avoided operas most of my life because I find the singing spooky sounding and the subject matter often even spookier. It’s always about murders and suicides and other bloodshed. This time, my friend told me about Turandot, that it is based on an ancient Chinese fable about a princess. So I gave it a go. For the record, it was every last bit as spooky as I'd imagined.

The people had white paint on their faces like ghosts. Princess Turandot wore blood red, and the backdrop was pitch black.*

It’s a very complicated story. I’ll do my best to summarize it. Are you on board? Let’s go!

The spinster princess Turandot made up three riddles. The suitors who come to marry her must guess all three, or else they are killed. This is a promise made with the Emperor of the Heavens, so nobody can back out. Her puzzles are basically impossible to solve. You’d think that would stave off possible suitors, but year after year, they keep coming back and ending up on their own death beds. Why? Some people like to put their heads in lions' mouths, and every year a person falls off the Niagara Falls while taking a selfie. It’s the same logic.

She’s not crazy without a reason. One of Turandot’s ancestors, Lou Lin, was raped and killed by a foreign prince, and China was taken over by a dictator. So now, hundreds of years later, she’s taken it upon herself to protect Lou Lin’s virgin spirit, the country, and take a bit of revenge.

This year, Prince Calaf comes along, looks at her from a distance, and then guesses all three riddles. Seeing that Turandot really doesn't wanna get married, he comes up with an out for her: guess his name by dawn, so she doesn't have to marry him and could kill him instead. Freaked out and totally terrified of commitment, Turandot pressured the people in the city to find his name, or else it's off with everyone's heads. *EDITTED

Well, despite putting everyone in the city in an utter panic, and the bloodshed of two completely innocent people, prince Calaf’s servant and father, it is apparently not a tragedy. Turandot decides to marry him.* The prince and the people of Beijing are spared, and everybody is happy.

I am not an opera expert by any means, so I didn’t really expect it to be, well, THAT. You know, I am often critical of modern day romance stories. I find that they often perpetuate a bad message for young people. I see that this opera is just a whole other level. It is five hundred times more messed up than anything else that I am just kind of in awe now. At the same time, I am so glad we’re not living in ancient China*, or an opera.

I kind of wish Turandot didn’t marry the guy, though. Because 1. What a messed up way to start a marriage! His dad and servant are dead, who’s even coming to their wedding? 2. Couldn’t she just have like, let him go? You can reject people without killing them in the process… Emperor of the Heavens will understand. But I get it, if she’d just let him go, the songs may not have been as dramatic.

For the record, I enjoyed the music very much, and thought the opera singing was very impressive. This picture is based on my feeling about the story, not a reflection of the singers.

*I saw the show on October 4th at the Canadian Opera Company, Robert Wilson did the directing, design and lighting concept EDIT:

Hey guys, I got it wrong the first time. I thought prince Calaf made it so that she *had* to find his name, but not really. He gave her an out if she really didn't wanna marry him. Turandot is the one that super duper didn't wanna get married. It is apparently not ancient China. The place only exists in Puccini's imagination, it's a fantasyland where it's sort of like China but not really. Kind of like the Land of Oz from The Wizard of Oz.

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