“Turandot,» Giacomo Puccini’s realistic and powerful opera, opened at the Athens Concert Hall last night, and opera aficionados wishing to attend should note that additional performances are scheduled to take place tonight, and on Saturday, Sunday, April 15 and 17. Puccini’s last work, and one of his most popular compositions, «Turandot» is the Athens Concert Hall’s final opera production for this season and is already almost sold out. Lavish staging An ambitious production, it includes well-known opera personalities and a striking stage design – attention to fine detail includes rich fabrics for the costumes coming directly from China – though the overall direction is based on a pure, no-frills concept. «People sometimes describe ‘Turandot’ as a fairy tale. That can be misleading for the opera’s direction and stage design, because the actual music is entirely different,» said Nikos Petropoulos at a recent press conference. Petropoulos, who is responsible for the current production’s stage design and the costumes, also came up with the original concept for the opera’s direction, which in turn was realized by Paolo Panizza. «The music of ‘Turandot’ is very European, Italian in particular,» noted Petropoulos. «That can only lead to a realistic production, as far as the direction, the stage design and the costumes are concerned.» First performed in Milan in 1926, «Turandot» is based on a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, who were originally inspired by Carlo Gozzi’s 1762 drama «Turandotte.» In the city of Peking, a royal decree claims that Princess Turandot will marry the prince who will provide the correct solutions to three of her riddles – failure to do so, however, means death for the prince. After an unknown prince meets the challenge, the princess faces challenges of her own. The composer died in November 1924, before completing the opera’s love duet as well as the work’s final scene. These were finally entrusted to Franco Alfano, a composer greatly inspired by Puccini. The cast Sopranos Galina Kalinina, Giovanna Casolla and Claire Primrose alternate in the role of Turandot, the heartless Chinese princess whose human feelings are only awoken by the kiss of the unknown prince. «Turandot is fragile, like all women. Her coldness is merely her defense,» said acclaimed soprano Giovanna Casolla, who has interpreted all of Puccini’s leading female characters, ranging from «Manon Lescault» to «Tosca» and «Madama Butterfly.» Tenors Vladimir Galouzine and Lando Bartolini alternate in the role of Prince Calaf, while sopranos Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, Althea-Maria Papoulia and Marina Vouloyianni act the part of Liu, the young slave who sacrifices herself so as not to betray the secret and her love for Calaf. Other soloists include Aldo Orsolini, Carlo Cigni, Yiannis Christopoulos, Nicola Pamio, Tassis Christoyiannopoulos, Giorgio Trucco, Pierro Terranove and Aris Papayiannopoulos. Petros Gallias is director of movement and Sergio Rossi is responsible for lighting. For «Turandot,» the Athens State Orchestra is conducted by Donato Renzetti. Also participating are the Kodaly Music School’s Children’s Choir directed by Michalis Patseas, together with the Choir of the State Opera of Sofia. Giacomo Puccini’s «Turandot,» at the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, Athens, tel 210.728.2000. For more information, log on to the Concert Hall’s website (www.megaron.gr).