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New Zealand diva debuts in major soprano role

22 August 2007

New Zealand diva debuts in major soprano role

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Margaret Medlyn


The title role of Puccini’s Turandot is famed as a pinnacle role for soprano, reserved for singers whose voices are in full dramatic bloom. New Zealander Margaret Medlyn easily fits into this category.

For Margaret Medlyn, the music of Turandot is a perfect fit. She discovered this when she followed a voice coach’s urgings a few years ago and learnt the role. “I loved singing it,” she says. “Somehow it sits really well with my voice.”

As Ms Medlyn prepares for her first performance in the great Puccini role, she is relishing the chance to bring out all the dimensions of Turandot’s character and to show her human side. “There is more to this woman than one-dimensional fierceness,” she says. “You can work at making her more interesting and appealing. That’s my speciality and where my interests lie.”

Margaret Medlyn has certainly made a speciality of taking on some of the most dramatically and vocally challenging roles for soprano. In recent years she has sung the title role in Strauss’s Salome, Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck, Maddalena in Giordano’s Andrea Chenier and Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, among many others. For The NBR New Zealand Opera, she won rave reviews for her Aida in 2000 and Tosca in 2003.

Turandot is one of the greatest, most well known operas in the world, featuring music of savage beauty. The compelling story is taken from Persian legend: the icy Chinese princess Turandot refuses to let any man have her. Princes seek her out but she ensures their defeat by demanding that they answer three impossible riddles – on pain of death. All have failed and been executed until an exiled prince enters into a battle of wits with the unattainable princess, with results both shocking and thrilling.

Margaret Medlyn says Turandot is a fantastic spectacle and a great audience pleaser. “It gives you a huge sense of exhilaration, with wonderful chorus passages and strong emotions. And that’s what I think opera should be about: strong emotions. In the general course of life you’re unable to play out strong emotions because it’s socially unacceptable, but I’m in the privileged position of being able to play these out on the stage. It’s cathartic for me and it’s cathartic for the audience.”

Alongside Ms Medlyn are Dongwon Shin (Calaf), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Liù), Grant Dickson (Timur), Phillip Rhodes (Ping), Adrian McEniery (Pang), Benjamin Fifita Makisi (Pong), Terry Barry (Emperor Altoum), Malcolm Ede (Mandarin). Completing the line-up are Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite, the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Auckland), Vector Wellington Orchestra (Wellington), Director Roy Rallo, Designer Paul Steinberg, Lighting Designer Phillip Dexter, and Assistant Director Steven Anthony Whiting.

This production, originally directed by Christopher Alden for Welsh National Opera, is sung in Italian with English surtitles. It opens in Auckland on Thursday 20 September and in Wellington on Saturday 13 October.

The Genesis Energy Spring Season of Turandot

AUCKLAND – Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®

Thu 20 Sep, Sat 22 Sep, Thu 27 Sep, Sat 29 Sep (7.30pm); Tue 25 Sep (1.00pm)

WELLINGTON – Westpac St James Theatre

Sat 13 Oct, Thu 18 Oct, Sat 20 Oct (7.30pm); Tue 16 Oct (6.00pm)

Single Tickets: $49.50 to $159.50; Concessions available. Service fees apply.

Bookings: Ticketek outlets nationwide, Tel 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 538) or Bookings also at The NBR NZ Opera Box Office:
Tel (09) 379 4068 or Tel (04) 499 8343.


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