Turandot | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Lyric Opera's current production of Puccini's final opera is a theatrical tour de force. The sets and costumes, designed by artist David Hockney, are exquisite, and the music is perhaps Puccini's best--certainly his grandest. Set in ancient China, the story concerns Princess Turandot, an icy virgin who must marry the prince who answers her three riddles correctly. Suitors who fail are beheaded, the fate of many already, as the gruesome opening scene depicts. In the performance I saw, soprano Andrea Gruber was formidable in her portrayal of the princess--even though her enormous sound wasn't always pleasing, she was convincing, and the chill in her voice suits the character. Vladimir Galouzine's robust, darkly colored tenor brings an effective machismo to the part of the suitor Calaf. He did cut short the last note of the opera's best-known aria, "Nessun Dorma," and his volume could have come down more often, but when the two leads sang together it was spectacular. Soprano Patricia Racette, excellent as the tortured slave girl Liu, was mesmerizing in her pivotal third-act aria. Turandot hasn't been produced here since 1997--another reason not to miss this. Bruno Bartoletti conducts. See also Wednesday. a 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179.

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