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Festival Opera's Turandot

Festival Opera

July 11, 14, 17, and 29

“It is somewhat unexpected when a small company like Festival Opera takes on a very grand opera like Turandot. The size of the piece and the enormous role of the chorus make it a challenge,” says Artistic Director Michael Morgan.

Indeed, the production, which has been two years in the making, promises to be the Festival Opera's most lavish in the company's 18-year history. A national search for the principal roles came up with Christopher Jackson to play Calaf and soprano Rebecca Sjöwall for the role of Liù. The all-volunteer Festival Opera Chorus has been expanded to 75 (including 15 preteens).

“It’s the biggest thing Festival Opera has ever done,” says director David Cox, who previously helmed Rigoletto in 2004 for the company. “It’s just a huge opera, and a very difficult piece to pull off.”

What makes a Turandot such challenge? “First of all, you have to have a Turandot — and that’s not a voice that falls off a turnip truck. The Calaf is a big sing. The orchestration is very, very big — the fact we’re going to be able to do it with as many instruments as we’re going to is a real testament to our musicians and our conductors.

"Then you have Liù — which is more like a regular Puccini soprano, like a Butterfly — more like a Mimi really. It’s a serious sing; she has to have a lot of control. Scotto did it. Fleming did it. Those kind of voices.

“You have to have a real bass,” he continues. “Fortunately, we have Kirk Eichelberger doing it, which is a real plus for us." Other than Kirk Eichelberger, performing as Timur, the vanquished king of Tartary, the cast includes Canadian soprano Othalie Graham in the title role that launched her professional career in 2004. Graham previously sang the title role in Festival Opera’s Tosca in 2006, and Eichelberger will be making his sixth appearance for Festival. The music will be conducted by Brian Nies and Peter Crompton is the set designer.

Catherine Getches is Managing Editor of San Francisco Classical Voice. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal, and others. She received her Masters in Journalism from Columbia University and Bachelors from Kenyon College.