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Turandot in Scotland

Posted 13 Mar 2014

The first performance of Turandot in Scotland was at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen on 4 October, 1929, just three years after its premiere at La Scala.  It was given by the Covent Garden Opera Company in the course of its annual tour, something covered previously here. The conductor, already an expert Puccinian, was John Barbirolli.  Of the singers, the soprano singing Liù was a well-known Scot, Noël Eadie.  A Welshman, Arthur Fear, sang Timur, and English tenor Francis Russell was Calaf.  Odette de Forna took on the title role.

Scottish Opera tackled the work in April 1984.  Alexander Gibson conducted an excellent cast that included Ludmilla Andrew (Turandot), Marie Slorach (Liù), Eduardo Alvarez (Calaf) and Willard White (Timur).  The production, by film director Tony Palmer, was controversial at the time, inferring that Puccini's inability to complete the opera was as a result of a domestic crisis several years earlier.  The concept was shorn of any Chinese elements, with Calaf in Edwardian tweeds and Liù as domestic staff.

Almost as un-Chinese was the company's second staging in 1996, borrowed from Welsh National. The director Christopher Alden had a black wall across the back, decorated with photos of Turandot's previous victims - and there were a lot of them. The performance was fierily conducted by Richard Armstrong, with Canadian Kathleen Broderick making her British debut as Turandot.  Francesca Pedaci was Liù and Stafford Dean Timur.  A Chinese tenor, Deng, sang Calaf.

The opera's only appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival came in the form of a Japanese staging in 1999.  The elegantly simple concept by dance specialist Saburo Teshigawara, was conducted by Michiyoshi Inoue.  Brought in from Bunkamura of Tokyo, it packed the Playhouse for four nights.

Since then, the opera has been toured several times by the Ellen Kent organisation, with performances in Aberdeen and Dundee as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Several casts were alternated in a traditionally Chinese staging.  Notable singers included Natalia Margarit (Turandot), Irina Vinogradova (Liù) and Ahmed Agadi (Calaf).

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