The Fort Worth Opera reverted to tradition on Saturday night, presenting a spectacular Turandot in Bass Performance Hall after opening its 2008 spring opera festival with a very untraditional Angels in America the preceding week.
The production of Puccini’s opera is a visual blockbuster. Peter Graves’ scenery and Allen Charles Klein’s costumes (on loan, respectively, from the Cleveland and Dallas opera companies) are highly colorful and strikingly designed, and their effect is reinforced by Chad R. Jung’s dramatic lighting. Fort Worth has even included a troupe of Chinese acrobats to add motion to color and style.
Vocally, the evening had its strong points as well. Although a couple of smaller roles were substandard, the bigger ones were capably filled.
Soprano Carter Scott, a last-minute substitute for Elizabeth Bennett, sang Turandot with Nilssonesque force and icy presence. Turandot’s change of heart at the conclusion was not convincing, but then it never is. Blame the opera.
Dongwon Shin never achieved maximum effect as Calaf, a role noted for formidable predecessors, but he performed honorably and definitely was a crowd-pleaser.
So was Sandra Lopez in the sympathetic role of Liu. Ryan Taylor, Jamin Flabiano and Keith Jameson as Ping, Pang and Pong, and Christian Van Horn as Timur were effective collaborators.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under Joe Illick’s baton was in excellent form, the Fort Worth Opera chorus somewhat less so.
Daniel Pelzig’s clever direction made good use of the complicated stage picture. He even managed to fit the acrobatic troupe into the production without unduly jarring the audience’s sensibilities, though the final act edged dangerously close to circusy.
By the way, this troupe, the Guanhua Acrobats from Shanghai, was signed for Turandot after they found themselves stranded on tour in America. There’s going to be a benefit performance of their act (sans Puccini) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Fort Worth’s Scott Theatre. It’ll be worth taking in; they are extremely good.
The Fort Worth Opera festival will continue through June 8. Lucia di Lammermoor will be added to the lineup today; Of Mice and Men debuts on May 31.