Monday, October 10, 2011

Kansas City Lyric Opera: Turandot

It is a bit of a moot point to review a final performance of a production; by now it is history. But, I felt a bit of an obligation to my 2 fans to record my impressions of the first  Lyric Opera of Kansas City production  in the new Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Puccini's final opus "Turandot".  This new from the ground up Lyric production featured soprano Lise Lindstrom in the title role, (fine performance, but a bit screechy on top and tended to channel Joan Crawford's haughty demeanor rather than Maria Callas') tenor Arnold Rawls as Prince Calaf, (superb "Nessun Dorma") soprano Elizabeth Caballero as the tragic slave girl Liu, (all around wonderful in this most demanding role) and, in his Lyric Opera debut (about time) Colby, Kansas native Samuel Ramey as the exiled King Timur (perfectly powerful and tragic).

The sets by Lyric Opera designer R. Keith Brumley were functional and evocative of ancient China without being stereotypical. The colorful costumes caught and reflected the sets reds and yellows, especially Turandot's icy white gowns. Ping, Pang and Pong's (wonderful, cynically comic performances by Michael Chioldi, Scott Wichael and Doug Jones) pastel gowns, almost clownish make up and whipping fans provided bursts of color and comic relief among the white and gold of the royalty and the drab browns of the peasants. The extras were numerous but never in the way in the finely choreographed performance. A fine children's chorus and powerful adult chorus that could press you back into your seat filled the stage to capacity.

Music Director Ward Holmquist led the orchestra in a finely paced and nuanced performance; the new pit and acoustics meant we could actually hear even the most delicate phrases. Also noticeable were fewer instances where the orchestra drowned out the singers.

The acoustics and line of sight from my perch in the Parterre section, straight back from dead center stage were fabulous. Not sure I really like the glitzy, bright colors and the huge lighted transparent panels that line the boxes, but it does make for a more welcoming atmosphere than the dark Lyric Theatre space. The new "Figaro" individualized subtitle system worked well, but in my row was down to low due to no seat backs in front of us.

The old Lyric Theatre simply did not have the space on stage or in the pit for really grand opera. That has certainly changed.

On tap for the season: Cosi Fan Tutte, Nixon in China and Barber of Seville.

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