The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review

You cannot give me to him like a slave girl to die in shame and sorrow.— Princess Turandot
Rupert Goold is the darling of the theatre going public for his innovative and expressive direction of the classics like his wintry Tempest, his military Macbeth and for his beautiful Faustus. His first venture into opera is Puccini's Turandot for the English National Opera at the Coliseum. Now this tale is of a princess whose competing princely suitors are asked to provide the answer to three riddles. The prize is her hand in marriage and the vast wealth she will inherit from her Chinese Emperor father. However there is a catch. Any prince who fails to answer the three riddles will be executed by a sword cutting off his head. Imagine today's royal families agreeing to such a condition!

Goold has seen this as a dark and sinister curse both on the suitors who fail and on the princess herself. His royal court in Peking is peopled with those in recognisable costume as if hired for a fancy dress party. The Mandarin who opens the scene has face makeup like a red faced baboon. There is a clown, a Chelsea Pensioner, a classical ballerina, some Goths and three Elvises: presumably they are the Chinese Elvises who in the UK provide a tribute cabaret act for some Chinese Restaurants? It is a scarlet and gold nightclub, lit red with exotic waitresses, tall, dark and Gothic with pointed hair. The table lights are lit skulls.

The chefs enter with machetes and electric hostess trolleys. The princess is accompanied by seven identical apricot coloured, wigged mannequins who move like automata. The royal kitchen from whence come the three Chef (stet) executioners, the ministers Ping, Pang and Pong, is hung with the corpses of headless and failed suitors (think headless Antony Gormleys) as red as those cured duck carcasses that you see suspended in the window in Chinatown. Sharpened knives and hatchets are arrayed on a magnetic strip on the wall. A central bier bursts into flames for cooking on the coals and a glass window looks as if it is half filled with liquid blood. The link is made between good food, violence and sex. Video designer Lorna Heavey projects swirling Chinese characters onto the backdrop for oriental atmosphere.

Our hero, Calaf (Gwyn Hughes Jones) a chunky, chap with the most magnificent tenor voice is dressed as Pavarotti in a navy shortie car coat and a wide yellow tie against his navy shirt and suit. The biggest hand of the night goes not to the exquisite German soprano Kirsten Blanck as the ice maiden but to second soprano of South African origin, Amanda Echalaz who plays Liu, the punkily made up, faithful servant of Calaf's father, Timur, as sung by the sonorous bass James Cresswell. Liu of course is the heroine as she refuses to reveal under torture the name of Calaf which would have released the princess from her contract. Pretty noble when you realise that sweet singing, lyrical Liu herself was in love with Calaf. She does of course have the most accessible arias of the women. Kirsten Blanck is magnificent although haunted by the ghosts of her executed lovers. The Emperor (Stuart Kale) is like a hairy biker, grizzled long hair and whiskers, in a Hell's Angel outfit decorated with braid and jewels.

Actor Scott Handy scribbles away as the author until he comes to a gory end and interestingly one of the pig headed chefs takes over the written account after the Writer is indisposed. Act One sees the Prince of Persia (Joseph Raisi-Varsaneh) shivering in the buff before his execution, and a live size ice sculpture of the princess with curved sword raised on high with the skipping figure of a small girl in communion veil and white dress skipping in accompaniment.

The music is of course, full of wonderfulI arias. In Act Three, comes "Let Them Sleep" the Anglicised version of "Nessum Dorma", the moment we have all been waiting for . . . and what a moment! I loved too the mannequin fan dance with these identical dancers holding fans and wearing veiled headdresses made of stiffened, pleated gauze.

What does it all mean? I honestly have no idea but it is fun and diverting. On Press Night, a small minority of the audience decided to boo the director as if they were at some sort of pantomime and I was told that the audience at Covent Garden two nights before had slaughtered a minimalist production of Tristan and Isolde. Opera fans are either getting militant or losing their manners. Ah well, "Off with their heads I say!"

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Written by Giacome Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renata Simoni after Carlo Gozzi's dramatic fairy-tale
English translation by William Radice
Directed by Rupert Goold

Starring: Kirsten Blanck, Gwynn Hughes Jones, Amanda Echalaz, James Cresswell
With: Stuart Kale, Benedict Nelson, Richard Roberts, Christopher Turner, Iain Paterson, Scott Handy, Joseph Raisi-Varsaneh, Gloria Martinez Garcia, Lily Targett, Peter Van Hulle
Set Design: Miriam Buether
Costume Designer: Katrina Lindsay
Lighting: Rick Fisher
Conductor: Edward Gardner
Assistant Conductor: Stephen Higgins
Chorus master: Martin Merry
Leader: Janice Graham
Video art and design: Lorna Heavey
Associate Director/Choreographer: Aletta Collins
Running time: Two hours 55 minutes with two intervals
Box Office: 0871 911 0200
Booking to 9th December 2009
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 8th October 2009 at the London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane London WC2 (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Turandot
  • I disagree with the review of Turandot
  • The review made me eager to see Turandot
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Billy Elliot Tickets
Mighty Boosh Tickets
Mamma Mia Tickets
We Will Rock You Tickets
Theatre Tickets
London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from