Love conquers all: Turandot at the Finnish National Opera

FinlandFinland Puccini, Turandot: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera / Hannu Lintu (conductor). Finnish National Opera, Helsinki, 4.2.2023. (AA)

Astrik Khanamiryan (Turandot) © Ilkka Saastamoinen

Director – Sofia Adrian Jupither
Sets – Erlend Birkeland
Costumes – Maria Geber
Movement Director – Katarina Sörenson
Lighting Design – Ellen Ruge

Turandot – Astrik Khanamiryan
Calaf – Leonardo Caimi
Liù – Annika Leino
Timur – Jyrki Korhonen
Ping – Ville Rusanen
Pang – Markus Nykänen
Pong – Dan Karlström
Altoum – Jussi Miilunpalo

The Finnish National Opera presents the Finnish premiere of a new production of Puccini’s Turandot. Puccini’s final opera is full of rich colors and drama. It is a co-production with the Malmö Opera, Sweden.

Turandot is based on an old Persian story, but the events take place in ancient China. Emperor Altoum’s daughter Turandot is a princess who is famous for her beauty. To claim the princess, suitors from near and far must answer three riddles correctly or else lose their lives. The princess is hard to please and the suitors are sent to their death – one after another until Prince Calaf emerges. Could Calaf be the one who gives Turandot the freedom to choose for herself?

The tale of Turandot addresses various psychological aspects. It is a story about Turandot’s choices on an individual level, as well as a story of our society now. Director Sofia Adrian Jupither has stated that she wished to remove outdated layers of the piece and make Turandot work in modern times. Jupither is mindful of the main characters’ public and private roles. Still, the version appears quite true to tradition.

Finnish National Opera’s Turandot © Ilkka Saastamoinen

Erlend Birkeland is responsible for the set and Ellen Ruge for the lighting. Most of the stage is dominated by a giant staircase to Altoum’s palace. The seat of the son of heaven is placed at the very top, whereas Turandot is often seen behind the rails of a balcony that could be mistaken for a cage. The dark stairs are surrounded by blossoming cherry trees. Pink petals keep floating downwards. The set remains more or less unchanged throughout the piece. Resembling a large painting, it is enigmatic and simple, allowing us to focus on the music.

The music is marvelous; to me, Turandot combines all of Puccini’s best qualities. The opera is full of lyrical melodies, creating a unique fairy-tale atmosphere. This is enhanced by multi-faceted orchestral parts. Under the command of chief conductor Hannu Lintu, the musical intensity stays high to the very end. The evening’s musical offering is powerful, yet elegant and well thought-through.

Turandot was sung by Astrik Khanamiryan, whose dramatic soprano captures the essence of the role. She first appears as a spoiled ice princess, distant and wayward, covered by yards of fluffy silk. Gradually, the masks are removed, Turandot discovers her real passions and her voice opens up, too.

Leonardo Caimi is a natural born prince Calaf, with the requisite charisma and a beautiful lyrical voice. And, yes, his ‘Nessun dorma’ is one to remember.

Annika Leino performed the part of Liù, the slave whose concern to warn Calaf falls on deaf ears. Her rendition of Act III ’Tu che di gel sei cinta’ was so full of emotion that it was one of the most touching moments of the evening.

The ministers Ping (Ville Rusanen), Pang (Markus Nykänen) and Pong (Dan Karlström) form a dynamic trio attempting to convince Calaf to give up – but to no avail.

Turandot is also a truly choral opera. In this version, a massive choir representing the crowds of Peking is on stage for the better part of the performance. The piece also includes a children’s choir. Marge Mehilane and the choir of the Finnish National Opera did an excellent job.

This production of Turandot is a true gem, delivering a universal message: regardless of who people are or where they come from, they are all looking for love.

Performances of Turandot last until March 4th, 2023.

Anna Aalto

2 thoughts on “Love conquers all: <i>Turandot</i> at the Finnish National Opera”

  1. Excellent summary written by a great opera lover, musician, painter and attorney-at-law!

  2. Awe inspiring truly! The direction, sets, singers, acting and orchestra were perfect! The subtitles in English brought the performance to life for me. The best version of Turandot I have ever seen.


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