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27.5.05

Turandot in the Stade de France

You may remember the production of Puccini's Turandot that was staged in the Forbidden City, in Beijing, in September 1998. Since then, there have been other productions of this opera in exotic locations, the most recent that I know of being the Beittedine palace in Lebanon, where the opera was staged last July. Well, I have another one for that list, as I learned in an article (Le Stade de France s'échauffe avant "Turandot", May 28) by Pierre Gervasoni for Le Monde. Tonight, there is a staged production of Turandot in the Stade de France, as part of the publicity campaign for Paris's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

It's not the best acoustics for opera, of course (they have a very expensive sound system in place), but Chinese film director Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, 2004; Raise the Red Lantern, 1991), who staged the production, has a stage 175 meters [574 feet] wide, 70 meters deep [230 feet], and 35 meters [115 feet] high, and over 1,850 lighting instruments. That's 4,000 square meters [almost 1 acre] of surface for a cast of 60 dancers and 120 chorus members, plus principals and an orchestra of 80. In fact, Yimou Zhang was the director of the Forbidden City production, and in the Stade de France he has built a set that recreates the Forbidden City (my translation):

Jean-Christophe Giletta, adjunct director of the Stade de France, specifies that there are plans to show close-up images on two giant screens on either side of the stage, which will also carry subtitles of the libretto. He recalls how the production was brought to Paris: "After having mounted Turandot in 1998 in Beijing in the natural setting of the Forbidden City, Yimou Zhang proposed to revive the production in Seoul in 2002, for the World Cup Soccer championship in South Korea. Seduced by the images of that production, we decided to bring it to Paris." In the meantime, the sets created for Seoul had been destroyed and most of the costumes and props had disappeared. So the budget for the Turandot in the Stade de France has risen to 3 million € [US$3.76 million].
That cost is shared with other organizations, because after a single performance in Paris, the whole kit and caboodle will go to the Olympic Stadium in Munich on June 25 and to Gelsenkirchen on July 6. Irina Gordeï will sing Turandot, Ukrainian tenor Viktor Lutsiuk (whom we just heard in The Maid of Orleans at Washington National Opera in April) will sing Calaf, and Yao Hong will perform the role of Liù.

UPDATE:
More pictures here.

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