The Turandot Project

An earnest tribute to showmanship, this 2000 documentary by Allan Miller traces the uneasy collaboration between two strong-minded artists—conductor Zubin Mehta and filmmaker Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers)—as they collaborate on a stage production of Turandot, Puccini's opera about a cruel Chinese princess. Miller captures the clash of cultures and personalities in small but revelatory moments (Mehta's glowing accounts of his diplomatic and musical triumphs, Zhang's anxiety over an opera the Chinese regard as a foreigner's fantasy). But the film provides only snippets of the rehearsals and the opening-night performance, not enough to grasp the $12 million spectacle, which required three casts of singers, hundreds of extras, and costumes sewn by thousands of tailors. 87 min.

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