To watch the Metropolitan Opera Live at the Lincoln Center can cost you as much as US$400 for the best seats, and US$42 at the worst. Yet, through the recent Metropolitan Opera Live in High definition program, I was able to watch opera at an equivalent price of US$18. Metropolitan HD Live now broadcasts live via satellite to major movie theatres in big cities all around the world.
Last week , I got front row seats in a local theatre to watch Turandot, and that was truly an awesome experience. And when the lead actor sang Nessun Norma, I was just entranced.
Turandot is a retelling of a story through Puccini’s music of a story that originated way back to the Arabian Nights 1001 stories. The King of Persia was in the habit of having a new virgin bride every night only to have them executed the next morning. Scheherazde presented herself as the virgin bride and began telling a story every night with no ending, and the king was so captivated with the stories that it lasted 1001 nights with no more execution.
Turandot was one of Scheherazade’s story – about a Chinese Ice Princess who dared suitors to answer her three riddles, and if not successful, had them executed. This went on, until a Persian prince succeeded in answering her riddles and now she was obligated to marry him. The Prince of Persia gave her an out, if she can find out her name, he will release her and he will forfeit his own life. She immediately decreed that no one should sleep until they can discover his name. The soldiers caught the Prince’s slave girl and forced her to divulge his name, instead she declared her love for the Prince, and said that his name is “LOVE” and proceeded to commit suicide by stabbing herself with a soldier’s sword. When the princess saw this, she melted. The Prince then told her his real name, and she now have the option to have him executed in the morning.
When the trial finally took place, she declared that the Prince’s name is LOVE, and instead of an execution and a funeral, a wedding celebration took place.
Turandot was banned in China until in 1998, an outdoor Turandot was performed in the Forbidden Palace. What an emotional experience that would have been for China to have a performance of an Italian opera about a Persian girl telling the story of a Chinese princess’ romantic love with an Persian Prince set in the middle ages.