OPERA REVIEW: Soul stirrings in the shadow of Sydney city is pure magic

Dragana Radakovic as Turandot and Riccardo Massi as Calaf in Puccini's opera Turandot, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and performed by Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.  Photo by Prudence Upton.

Dragana Radakovic as Turandot and Riccardo Massi as Calaf in Puccini's opera Turandot, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and performed by Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. Photo by Prudence Upton.

  • When the heroic top notes of ‘Nessun dorma’ ring out, your soul stirs and it’s impossible to resist the climax of an exotic adventure, captured perfectly in music
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Turandot on Sydney Harbour, CinemaLive and Opera Australia, South Holland Centre, Spalding

Pre-Communist China under the Qing/Manchu dynasty where beautiful but tortured ice princess Turandot routinely puts her suitors to death for failing to solve her riddles.

Puccini’s Turandot, expertly modernised by Handa Opera for the setting of Sydney Harbour, features the most famous song in opera, Nessun Dorma (“Nobody shall sleep”) as Turandot loses her heart to “foreigner” prince Calaf.

He leaves plenty of collateral damage in his wake for Turandot, sung with relish by Serbian soprano Dragana Radakovic whose home city of Novi Sad also gave birth to tennis star Monica Seles.

Calaf wins Turandot over with a combination of guile, bravery and sheer obsession with his bride-to-be in an opera conducted by Brian Castles-Onion and featuring a spellbinding, “Best Supporting Actress” performance from South Korean soloist Hyeseoung Kwon as ill-fated slave girl Liu.

An episode of Inspector Morse, Promised Land, took the cultured detective to Australia and ended with the late John Thaw walking towards Sydney Opera House to watch a performance by famed Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland as Turandot.

The outstanding Hyeseoung Kwon as doomed slave girl Liu in Puccini's Turandot, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and performed by Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.  Photo by Prudence Upton.

The outstanding Hyeseoung Kwon as doomed slave girl Liu in Puccini's Turandot, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and performed by Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. Photo by Prudence Upton.

No doubt it was something to savour like Turandot on Sydney Harbour was.

Review by Winston Brown

With a cast of 78, a 60-metre fire-breathing dragon whose tail morphs into the Great Wall of China and an 18-meter tall pagoda, the set itself becomes a true feast for the eyes

Opera Australia