By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After receiving postcards from the Sarasota Opera for many years, we finally got to this Florida oasis on Friday, March 15, when we saw “Turandot.”
The sure and steady beat of Maestro and Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi indicated from the start that everything Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) strived for in this, his final opera, was going to happen.
Dramatic soprano Brenda Harris was Princess Turandot, out to avenge her murdered and defiled ancient ancestor by decapitating her potential suitors who fail her test of three riddles. (Hope, Blood and Turandot). Ms. Harris’s singing of the phrase “Straniere” and the powerhouse aria “In Questa Reggia” evoked memories of the great Turandots of the past. In her duets and the riddle scene, she was every bit a match for her umpteenth suitor Calaf, and her “meltdown” truly added to the “love conquers all” message.
Calaf was sung by Scott Piper, who had a stentorian tenor voice with a darkish hue that thrilled. His singing of “Non Piangere Liu” was touching, and his duets with Ms. Harris shook the rafters. The famed aria “Nessun Dorma” so beautifully sung evoked cheers.
Liu, a young slave, was exquisitely sung by Maria Natale, whose beautiful heartfelt lyric soprano provided some marvelous pianissimi in “Signore, Ascolta” and a poignant and ravishing tone in her dramatic suicide scene.
The Ping, (Grand Chancellor), Pang (Grand Purveyor) and Pong (Grand Chef) were played and sung with wit and brio by Matthew Hanscom, Marvin Kehler and Eric Bowden. They scored a triune triumph and were audience pleasers.
The resplendent Emperor Altoum was sung by apprentice artist tenor Greg Herrmann, who made the most of this part using tremulous tones and weary wisdom.
The unfortunate Prince of Persia was in the handsome, albeit silent presence of Adam Bielamowicz. Timur, the blind deposed Tartar king, was sung with conviction in a strong bass by Young Bok Kim. And Kevin Wetzel’s strong vibrant baritone set the tone for the opera in his role as a Mandarin.
All in all, this great score was in the talented hands of Maestro Victor DeRenzi and his superb orchestra.
The chorus, under Roger L. Bingaman, performed brilliantly, and the Youth Chorus added to the many joys of the evening. Stage Director Stephanie Sundine made for impressive entrances of Turandot and the lead roles and smooth crowd scenes.
As always, there was also a Brooklyn connection. Longtime Artistic Administrator Greg Trupiano is a Cobble Hill resident; Marketing Administrator Iain Harris, a resident of London, lived in Park Slope and met his wife Kelli there; and Sam Lowry, communications director, also resided in Park Slope. In addition, Richard Russell, executive director, was a native of Carroll Gardens.
Bravo to all at the Sarasota Opera - long may it reign! For further info, visit sarasotaopera.org.