What a fantastic birthday of a weekend. It started on Friday evening. Another senior sister and I had obtained tickets for Turandot, a Handa Opera, from the Paynes who were transferred to Papua New Guinea before they could use them. Admittedly, I would not have purchased the tickets on my own. I am no opera buff and even though the Paynes sold them at a discount to us, it was still $150 per ticket. So after deciding that we would look stylish, but still comfortable, Steph (Sister Black) and I set off on the train from Eastwood to the Circular Quay where we thought the opera was staged. We had intended to catch a bite of pre-opera supper and walk over to Mrs McQuaries Point where they had constructed the immense set on the water.
Dinner turned out to be just fish and salad from one of the takeout shops at the Quay rather than a leisurely dinner overlooking the harbour. But it was a good thing it was a quick bite because as it turned out, we had miscalculated the time and location of the event. Steph had thought that the set was right beside the Opera House, and I had thought it was just across the Botanical Gardens. It was across the Botanical Gardens, but the Gardens closed at dark, so we would have to walk at a fast pace clear around the gardens.
A kind doorman in one of the Harbour’s swanky apartment houses hailed a cab for us which dropped us off at the outdoor theatre. The area around the stage was set up as an outdoor garden and restaurant and the wine was flowing freely. All types of people were there wearing most of anything. The set was breathtaking even with the subtle pre-action lighting. An immense paneled tower arose from the back of the raked stage with paths going across the front of the stage so that the actors could enter from a variety of angles. A wall off the back of one side turned into an enormous golden dragon with a huge ornate mouth. It all had a very Asian look managing to appear both ancient and strikingly modern at the same time.
As if the set weren’t striking enough, the opening scene featured the emperor on his throne being flown in by a crane. The chorus wore glistening grey robes with huge Chinese hats and the tale of the cold-hearted Turandot, the slave girl Liu and the dashing prince all came to life. Sung in Italian, we all kept up with the help of subtitles in both English and Chinese, although we didn’t see many Chinese in the audience.
The drama didn’t stop throughout the production. Of course, the singing was superb. The prince and princess were rather long in the tooth and large in the girth as operatic leads are prone to be, but their voices were certainly spectacular. The Princess Tarandot stood in the tall tower and sang her arias as a staircase ascended. She had to grasp on to some pillars, and we were relieved that she was tethered by a chain because as the staircase ascended from the tower, it swayed ever so slightly in the breeze. A gigantic splash of fireworks punctuated some of the more dramatic scenes.
Here is a link to the Tirandot trailer. I tried to take some photos on our little phone camera, but the lighting was bad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4VMMk3ngSw
It was a good thing it took us over an hour to board the water taxi back to the quay and catch our two trains back to Carlingford because we would have been too keyed up to fall asleep immediately after such a stunning entertainment. By the time we reached the Epping station, all the other opera goers had mostly dropped off and we were left with a young Friday night crowd out with sweethearts and friends. Sweetheart Joe picked Stephanie and I up at Epping station.